Companies reach out to APAC audience with virtual events

Virtual tradeshows allow companies to reach out to their audience in Asia-Pacific saving time and traveling costs, say organizers, who note that such events can backfire without adequate preparation.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

Virtual tradeshows allow companies to reach out to their audience in Asia-Pacific without the need for exhibitors or participants to travel which saves time and travel cost for all involved, say organizers, who note the need to be mindful of how to prepare for one.

Near end-March, Hobsons, an IT and integrated marketing provider for the education sector, will be organizing a virtual education fair for students in Asia who are interested in studying at U.S. universities.

Daniela Locreille, director of student marketing for higher education at Hobsons, shared that the online event helps U.S. universities target students in specific regions and increases productivity as it saves them travel time and costs. In the virtual tradeshow, students and school representatives can interact directly through chat or video chat to gain information about courses, financial aid, tuition and fees, visa information and so on, she said.

Virtual events for education also suit the target audience as students today are "media-fluent", she said, adding that they are also a greener way of conducting business.

Last year's event had 12,300 students registering with a 15 percent attendance rate. This year, there will be a similar number of registrations with a target 20 percent attendance rate, said Locreille.

Open source software vendor Red Hat has also turned to virtual events to reach more of its audience. The company launched eJUDCon recently, a virtual version of its developer-focused JBoss Users and Developers Conference, which has seen 800 participants registering since the launch, said Daniel Ng, senior director of marketing at Red Hat Asia-Pacific.

Ng said that customers today want to be able to access content from anywhere, anytime and through their medium of choice. "They would also want the flexibility of consuming content in their timeline, in multiple short periods or at one go, and posses the ability to revisit content on a video for example, as many times as they wish," he added.

Through the virtual event, the company is able to serve more customers at a fraction of the cost and time taken to organize a physical event, he added.

Tips for participating in virtual tradeshows
For companies setting up their virtual tradeshow, Anita Nevins, president of Direct Connection Advertising and Marketing, advised them to train exhibitors and attendees so that they understand how to navigate through the show and capitalize on the functionality. For example, some virtual tradeshow platforms would have live chat function which adds to the feeling of connection between exhibitors and attendees, she said.

She added that it is important to find a virtual tradeshow vendor with a platform that is not too complex at a reasonable cost. "Lastly, remember that technology is imperfect so expect to have some bumps in the road," she added.

For companies participating in a virtual tradeshow, Locreille advised that they need to make their e-booth visually attractive with short but impactful messages. The booth needs to be properly staffed as "there is nothing worse than...clicking on an e-booth to find out there is no one manning the booth or that you have to wait because it has just one person available online", she added.

Promotion before the event is also important, she noted. "It is also key to warm up your future attendees through social media, be it Facebook or Twitter, to engage them beforehand so when they enter the environment these attendees will go to your e-booth first and chat with you rather than with other companies," she said.

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