Welcome to the fifth instalment of our Disruptive Technology series, where we showcase technical innovations that are revolutionising the world!
Perhaps one of the biggest changes to our lives this year (and for many of us, there have been quite a few!) has to be the implementation of social distancing. The rules of social distancing seem to be ever-changing; whether that’s staying 2m apart from strangers, sitting outdoors in groups of six or working with colleagues over Zoom and Microsoft Teams — our personal and working lives have all been affected over the course of 2020, in ways we never could have imagined.
One of the sectors that has been most challenged by the changing regulations on social distancing has been the events and exhibitions space. Many companies, our clients included, have needed to rethink their exhibition strategies and the ways that they’ve previously engaged their target audience through live events. Interestingly, these new limitations have led to the rise of virtual exhibitions — an alternative for businesses who are looking to share their products and services in the age of COVID-19.
Data Capture & Reporting
Say you host an exhibition for your business. You speak to lots of people at your stand; some pick up a leaflet or brochure. Others take a photo or jot details down and pass on by. You leave feeling like the event was a success. But how can you tell what’s worked, and what hasn’t? How many people have actually seen your campaign?
One of the huge benefits of virtual exhibitions is the ease at which you can capture audience data. Because everything is digital, everything is trackable. This allows for more advanced reporting that reveals a variety of info including how successful your exhibition has been, the demographic of your audience, the exact number of people who have seen your exhibition (or downloaded a pamphlet of brochure) and more. All the things that are much more vague — and often untrackable — at an exhibition hosted in real life.
At a traditional exhibition, your audience really depends on the people who show up at the physical location where it’s being hosted. An online exhibition means that an almost unlimited number of people can ‘attend’ as long as they have access to the internet through a smartphone, tablet or computer. The standard barriers to audience reach including cost, travel, scheduling, etc. don’t have to exist in the online space.
These days, not only can you reach an audience around the world, but the ones that are right for your product or service from wherever they are — all they need is access to WiFi and a link!
There was a trend towards virtual exhibitions even before COVID-19 hit. That’s because of the incredible cost-savings our clients benefit from when choosing to host their exhibitions online over in-person. Even taking asset, design and digital platform costs into account, virtual exhibitions are still less expensive than organising a physical exhibition.
Travel, printed materials, paying representatives to attend and everything else that comes alongside physical exhibitions all add up. Hosting your event online is much more cost-effective and means you can allocate your budget spend to ensuring your campaign is as impactful as possible.
It’s more important now than ever to consider the impact we can have, as individuals and businesses, on climate change. At HERRON + Co we are particularly invested in the ways that technology and digital can facilitate this impact — and virtual exhibitions are definitely up there.
By choosing to host a virtual exhibition over a physical one, you’re instantly reducing carbon emissions. Exhibitions, especially for our clients, can attract an international customer base. A virtual exhibition eliminates the need for thousands of people flying into a city from all over the world, therefore reducing the carbon emissions that go alongside travel.
And while we’re big fans of print, hosting a virtual event limits the amount of physical materials that need to be produced, too. So if you’re committed to making your organisation more ‘green’, even beyond the pandemic, virtual exhibitions are a great option to keep in mind!
What does a virtual exhibition look like?
There’s been some exciting new tech around virtual exhibitions, especially in recent years. Here are a few demos that are worth checking out.
V-Ex was one of the first demos I looked at and definitely one of the most immersive. This style of virtual exhibition replicates the real experience by allowing visitors to ‘walk’ around Google Street View-style and ‘visit’ different stands, view videos, download brochures. You can even chat with people — just like you would at a real exhibition. The 3-D formatting is pretty fascinating and the experience has an almost ‘video game’ quality to it.
It’s exciting to think of the ways Virtual and Augmented reality could be integrated into this style of virtual exhibition experience — we’ll have to wait and see.
Check out the V-Ex demo and see for yourself!
Less immersive than V-Ex — but certainly worthwhile — the Voxexpo demo is more of a traditional website than the more extreme examples of what a virtual exhibition can look like. It’s a great in-between option for those who might not want to invest fully in a virtual exhibition but want to glean some of the benefits that virtual exhibitions can offer.
For our clients who’d like to test out the world of virtual exhibitions, we’d recommend building a ‘microsite’ or online experience onto their existing website. It’s a fantastic way of showcasing your products and services in a more dynamic and engaging way.
The InterSystems demo is an example of the most simple form of virtual exhibition — much closer to being a straightforward website. But worth showcasing if the previous demo still felt too tech-y or advanced. It may be that this type of virtual exhibition works best for you, at least for now; it’s still a good way to showcase your products and services and take advantage of some of the benefits we mentioned at the start!
Back in December 2019, no one could have predicted the many changes that were to come; the countless ways that people, businesses and entire industries would have to adapt to a global pandemic and the resulting limitations. But these challenges have resulted in some exciting innovations, which are likely to still hold value and continue to evolve beyond 2020 — and whatever comes next. We’re interested to see more developments in the virtual exhibitions space and will continue to find ways to integrate cutting edge tech into the work we do at HERRON + CO.