Michael Doyle, executive director of the Virtual Edge Institute, spoke with Media Business about the evolution of online events.
Media Business: Where are media companies seeing virtual events growth?
Michael Doyle: Media companies are still trying to figure out how virtual events fit into their [business] models. They are having success with a combination of online content-based programs as well as virtual trade shows.
MB: How are exhibitor and sponsor expectations evolving?
Doyle: In general, marketers are looking for product awareness and brand awareness. They are looking for business development opportunities—not just lead generation, but existing customers or partners that they can reach and influence.
MB: What interactive features do attendees expect to see?
Doyle: Video. More interactive video and more demos. Virtual attendees want to see live demos that they can interact with, very similar to if they were standing at a booth. Within the content area, people want to interact with the presenter as opposed to sitting back and consuming the information in a one-way broadcast. It's clear that is an area that we need to focus on as event producers.
Going forward, I think digital environments will allow people to share a lot more information in a broadcast before a physical event happens so that more time is spent on interaction at the event [rather] than listening to lectures. That's something that could be very powerful for physical event producers, the ability to get the information exchange out before the event and then spend time at the event going much deeper.
MB: How are organizers successfully promoting interaction?
Doyle: You really have to push it and show that there is a value. It's even an issue with text chatting. You can't just offer text chat and expect people to start having meaningful conversations. You have to have a plan. It's a matter of the event producer doing marketing and promotion and seeding those experiences. Once people see it, they'll get it.
MB: What revenue strategies are working at virtual trade shows today?
Doyle: The whole concept of having a package of sponsorship benefits that [includes] the booth experience and thought leadership opportunities—and walks that tightrope of editorial integrity and marketing benefits for the sponsor. People are looking at those kinds of blended packages. The days of just being in the booth are numbered. The sponsor wants to be in multiple areas where customers are.