Virtual events deliver control


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Initiating conversation via instant messaging can be challenging, marketers said. John Grosshandler, founder of virtual trade show eComXpo, recommends having both group and individual chat options in a booth. “You don't just sit back and wait for them to talk to you,” he said. “Say "hi' instantly.” Often however, the attendee comes into the booth and does not respond to the nudge, he said. A group chat window allows them to jump into an ongoing conversation—something that may seem less intimidating. Conversation proved to be a challenge when business and financial management solutions provider Intuit Inc. hosted its first virtual conference in January, but the benefits of the forum outweighed the audience's reluctance to chat, organizers said. The two-day conference drew more than 1,100 accountants—more than double the number expected during a month in which that audience is preparing for tax season. The event featured educational content and online courses where accountants could earn professional credits. “It's definitely an area that accountants want us to be in, and it works with their schedule,” said Allessandria Polizzi, group manager for accountant training relations. But while attendees at the company's physical user conferences typically crowd into lounge areas and network like mad, virtual chatter was sparse, she said. “[At a physical conference] I have to go in with a bell and tell them to stop talking and go to class,” she said. “A virtual environment—it was tumbleweeds.” Conversation did occur in at least one area. A professional adviser booth drew such heavy traffic that organizers had to intervene— showcasing the flexibility of the virtual environment. After a quick huddle, they identified frequently asked questions and posted responses that freed their experts to focus on additional queries. “We could meet every hour and make changes,” Polizzi said. “You can't recreate that in a static environment.”
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