Driving deeper engagement with virtual events

Jim Sharpe, CEO of Aventri, shares how new technology can drive meaningful connections for online attendees, exhibitors and sponsors.

Jim Sharpe

What challenges are there when It comes to networking for meeting professionals nowadays?
In-person meetings present many opportunities for attendees to connect. There are receptions, coffee breaks, small workshops, immersive showrooms, chance encounters in hallways and more.

This isn’t the case for remote attendees sitting in front of their computers. They face endless interruptions: emails, video streaming services, family members, deliveries, pets, and more. Amid all the distractions, meeting professionals have a hard time facilitating meaningful interactions during virtual events.

What’s more, online event platforms often don’t provide the right tools to enable fruitful conversations between attendees. Many solutions lack capabilities for one-on-one meeting scheduling, private video calls and chat within sessions. Or, they don’t have recommendation engines to pair up attendees with similar interests and event goals.

Networking with exhibitors poses a different set of challenges. With existing solutions, attendees must use calendar tools, messaging bots and lead generation forms. Then, they often wait hours in a queue before connecting with an expert. Sponsors and exhibitors spend part of their meetings manually qualifying leads. This leaves them with less time to address prospects’ needs.

Some of the main reasons people attend events are to meet subject matter experts, gain industry insights and find products they need to do their jobs better. If exhibitors can’t talk to prospects promptly, they miss opportunities to drive leads and generate a solid return on investment (ROI).

Against this backdrop, it’s easy to see why deeper engagement is the number one way organisers want to improve their virtual events, cited by 68 per cent of respondents in a new survey by Aventri and Bizbash.

For many meeting professionals, the biggest challenge is creating meaningful online networking experiences.

Tell us more about Aventri Digital Lead Capture. How does it work, and whether it can address these challenges you outlined above?
Aventri Digital Lead Capture brings immediacy to networking between remote exhibitors and attendees. In this way, it mirrors the dynamic showroom experience at in-person events.

This solution combines tools for chat, lead qualification, video conferencing, content delivery and reporting, all in one platform.

Using Digital Lead Capture, attendees click on exhibitor booths in a virtual showroom and quickly connect with experts. They get prompt answers to questions in personalised, one-on-one conversations – just like they do at in-person events.

Virtual sponsors and exhibitors enjoy focused, face-to-face conversations with qualified leads. They can also follow up immediately, using content pre-loaded into the system. With personalised online conversations, exhibitors can shorten the sales cycle and generate more revenue from events.

Digital Lead Capture integrates with Aventri and other registration and virtual event platforms. It also works seamlessly with customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation software. Sponsors and exhibitors can upload their event leads directly to streamline event follow-up and strengthen their marketing programs overall.

How different is Aventri Digital Lead Capture from regular video or text chatting?
Aventri Digital Lead Capture goes beyond traditional video and text chat functionality. In addition to chat, the solution provides these features below to bring virtual exhibitors and attendees together for productive conversations.

• Instant lead qualification – The technology captures more data, faster than filling out forms manually and using an external calendaring tool. Attendees answer a couple of quick questions, so exhibitors know what prospects want before getting on calls.

• Personalised video conferencing – Attendees and exhibitors talk one-on-one during live video calls. Thanks to lead qualification, discussions focus on the products and topics prospects have identified as their top priorities.

• Robust reporting – Aventri Digital Lead Capture also tracks key performance metrics, such as meetings scheduled, booths visited, dwell times, questions, comments and downloads. Organisers can analyse the data to see which conversations turned into qualified opportunities and demonstrate ROI. Sponsors gain insights on buyer preferences and pain points to customise event follow-up and improve future sales and marketing.

• Round-the-clock lead generation – Unlike conventional lead retrieval tools, Aventri Digital Lead Capture enables engagement 24/7, regardless of timezones. Prospects can request meetings, leave messages, read pre-loaded content and get into a queue during off-hours. They can receive timely responses, as soon as a sales rep logs into the system.

It is said that face-to-face meetings will return. What will be of this product when that time comes?
Aventri Digital Lead Capture enhances engagement for virtual attendees, while keeping in mind a future with hybrid events.

The solution works in tandem with the Aventri Lead Retrieval Solutions for face-to-face events. Sponsors and exhibitors can use one system across their entire events portfolio. They get a centralised database for event leads – captured in person or virtually – to improve immediate and future follow-up.

Why is a focus on hybrid events essential?
We believe hybrid is the industry’s future. This format combines in-person and remote speakers, exhibitors and attendees. For example, you might host 500 people at a venue and also share content with 5,000 remote participants worldwide.

Not surprisingly, a recent survey by Aventri revealed that 89 per cent of global meeting professionals say virtual components will continue to play a role even after the pandemic shutdown ends.

The reasons: Hybrid events welcome participants who can travel as well as those who cannot due to health or financial concerns. This format also creates new sponsorship opportunities and more ticketing options. For example, an attendee might spend two days at an in-person conference and attend a few sessions virtually on the third day.


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