Virtual Events & Virtual Networking: What We’ve Learned & What People Think
Source: Chris Montgomery/Unsplash
The number of organizations producing virtual events exploded as COVID-19 spread. Innovation has been rapid. Results have been mixed.
Most producers are frustrated by the level of engagement of the online participants but matching in-person events exposes the limitations of these virtual experiences.
Creating rewarding and scalable networking opportunities that serve all constituencies is the trickiest aspect of executing events online. It’s also been the least satisfying aspect for attendees, exhibitors and other event participants.
That doesn’t excuse event producers, whether for-profit trade show organizers or companies running virtual events to generate business or retain customers, from cracking the code of successful virtual networking.
The “event” analogy fails … again
“Networking” in the physical world means different things to different event participants: attendee to attendee, exhibitor to attendee, speaker to attendee, exhibitor to exhibitor, press to exhibitor, etc.
For exhibitors, networking typically means meeting potential prospects, business partners, press/analysts and investors. Exhibitors often use “engagement”, “interaction” and “networking” interchangeably to describe these activities.
Meanwhile, attendee expectations of “networking” may be vastly different, depending on the type of event they are attending. The motivation for attending trade shows may be principally commercial, e.g. attendees go to buy things for their stores and businesses. The commercial opportunities are front and center, while training and networking play supporting roles.
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