Let’s face it—virtual events can be draining. At this point, most of us have probably heard of “Zoom fatigue,” a term describing the burnout caused by an increase of online communication throughout the pandemic. Between technical difficulties and lack of social interaction, the practice of being constantly online is, at times, exhausting—that is, if it’s not handled properly.
There are many pros of digital and hybrid events, particularly increased accessibility. The challenge is not just to reach a wider audience, but also to keep that audience engaged. Trade shows, in particular, struggle with transitioning to virtual events. Many exhibitors report that their virtual trade show experiences in 2020 held little to no value. So, where do the issues lie, and how can they be avoided?
Lack of Interaction Between Attendees and Exhibitors
For many, trade shows are an opportunity to network and exchange ideas with people who have similar interests. Virtual trade shows are often missing the social aspect that makes traditional trade shows enjoyable. Text-based chat features can be intimidating and difficult to keep up with, especially when there is only a single fast-moving chat box for everyone in a room. Attendees miss out on conversation and networking, and exhibitors have a harder time meeting prospects and making sales.
The XDN Summit in February 2021 showcased one potential solution to this issue. The event incorporated virtual tables where attendees could “sit” and chat with each other via video conference. When they weren’t sitting in on presentations or Q&A sessions, attendees could choose a table under a particular topic and meet other community members. It was a clever way to make the XDN Summit more interactive and community-focused, encouraging conversation while also showing off the capabilities of the products the event was founded on. A similar approach could be used for trade shows. With over 90% of virtual trade show attendees reporting that they were frustrated by their online experience, it’s clearly time for innovation. The Trade Show Executive describes the need for “integrated experiences,” or in other words, interactive approaches to digital events that go beyond creating an exact replica of the in-person event. Large-scale digital events are a new avenue of development. These new and unique circumstances call for equally original solutions.
Latency and Low Quality A/V
One of the biggest pulls towards virtual trade shows is that they are widely accessible, and allow exhibitors to reach larger and more diverse audiences than traditional trade shows. Distance is no longer a barrier, and virtual events are typically more affordable than those held in person. As an example, the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly rose from 16,200 in-person attendees in 2019, to 26,000 virtual attendees in 2020. Unfortunately, the transition from in-person to virtual events is not always simple, and without proper analysis and preparation, the virtual experience can be frustrating for users. One of the biggest challenges comes with live Q&A sessions. As of now, many trade show platforms are using text-based chat features to handle questions from attendees. Where video conferencing options exist, they are often lacking in both audio and video quality, making it difficult to sell products, network, or even have a natural conversation. Virtual trade show platforms need a solution that can handle scalable, real-time live video streaming. This is an area where Red5 Pro excels—the WebRTC conferencing offered by Red5 Pro allows for low-latency broadcasts, eliminating the frustrations of meeting virtually.
Virtual spaces are fairly new to the trade show world. As COVID cases rose globally in 2020, it seemed like everyone had a different solution to transitioning their events online. As such, different trade shows use different platforms, and part of the challenge of making an event successful is ensuring that users know how the platform works. Of course, a straightforward UI and built-in tutorials are always helpful for attendees, but presenters pose unique challenges. When and how should they present? How do they set up and test their presentations? Who can they reach out to if they run into an issue?
Technical difficulties happen, of course, but if they happen repeatedly or on a large scale, it can be off-putting to attendees and lead to a loss of interest in the event. It’s important for presenters and exhibitors to be trained on the platform ahead of time to prevent complications. If there are video Q&A sessions, or other interactive features, allow presenters to try them out before the trade show is live. For virtual trade shows to run smoothly and avoid as many technical challenges as possible, it is essential that the key players are already comfortable using the platform on the day of the event.
Where Do We Go from Here?
There’s a lot of opportunity for growth when it comes to virtual trade show development. Digital and hybrid events involve many moving parts that must be fused together to create an engaging interactive experience. There are several innovators out there, however, who are pioneering the movement towards more advanced platforms.
For example, Addison Interactive’s Eventuall platform includes the opportunity to create breakout rooms, which allow attendees to join the displays that interest them most, and to jump from one talk to the next. Exhibitors can use the platform to customize their exhibit booth with graphics and text overlays. At the XDN Summit, Eventuall incorporated Red5 Pro’s Experience Delivery Network (XDN) technology to add low-latency A/V streaming during presentations and Q&As. They even created virtual party tables where attendees could mingle after the event using live video conferencing.
The XDN architecture adds a layer of connectivity that revolutionizes the virtual trade show experience through the use of high-quality, real-time streaming. With latencies under 400ms, XDN connects people across the globe in a way that feels natural even in a digital space. The fail-safe performance and flexibility to scale resources as necessary make it a reliable streaming option that can be adapted to fit each virtual trade show implementation.