Regional industry leaders on the keynote panel of Monday’s Virtual IT&CM China and CTW China 2020 have pushed a different view of the pandemic, saying that the digitalisation of business events today is just part of its evolution, and that industry stakeholders who are able to adapt have found new business opportunities.
George Cao, co-founder & CEO, Dragon Trail Interactive, opened the keynote session with an acknowledgement that “the pandemic has changed many things, both personally and professionally. But the changes may not be as big or fundamental as some seem to suggest”.
Drawing comparisons between a traditional exhibition and one that is cloud-based, he pointed out that pre-pandemic tradeshows were already utilising many technologies, such as registration by facial recognition, digital match-making programmes, and event apps that help attendees navigate the show floor.
“In a physical event, people meet face to face whereas in a virtual tradeshow, people communicate over video calls. I’d say that this is the major difference between the two formats, but this is merely a continuation of the digitalisation of (events).”
Cao also emphasised that virtual event participation is not new, as in 2017 the late Stephen Hawkin had co-hosted a physical conference in a holographic form.
Fellow speaker, Zoe Lo, regional director, Mainland, Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), agrees that the digital event shift brings with it new business opportunities.
Since the outbreak in February, HKTB has organised nearly 20 online product training sessions for more than 800 industry professionals, as well as a three-day live-streaming training for more than 1,500 Mainland buyers and a business matching platform that were both launched in June.
“We are glad that we kept up with market changes and transformed the crisis into new business opportunities. Online events are cost-effective and flexible, and they allow us to go deeper with content,” shared Lo.
For event owners and planners looking for a digital event solution, Sharon Liu, business development director, Tencent Cloud Media, Tourism and Telecom Industry Center, suggested that they consider the solution’s credibility, platform, technology and channels.
Using Tencent as an example, Liu said: “Tencent’s strength is in consumer Internet, cloud technology and industrial solutions. We have the largest social platform in China, which includes WeChat, QQ, Tencent News and Tencent Video – and they can all be used as advertising channels for exhibition organisers.”
Drawing on her vast experience in event organisation, including the execution of a virtual conference during the dot com boom, Kitty Wong, chairman, K&A International and Expo Union Corporation, advised fellow event specialists looking to transition online to imagine themselves producing a play.
“Write a script so that everyone involved is clear about their role and purpose, and then rehearse. The goal is to make the communications work so that an episode two or three is possible,” Wong quipped.