Chris Brits, CEO of EBnet (The Employee Benefits Network)
In recent years, the landscape of conferences and expos has undergone a significant transformation. When the COVID pandemic hit, many conferences and events pivoted to the available technology platforms which were not ideally suited for it, as they were mostly aimed at facilitating smaller online meetings between a handful of people. A small group of event organisers started experimenting with metaverse-like 3-D virtual platforms but many of them struggled with the technology adoption and complicated user experience.
However, a small minority took a different approach and used game platforms designed to accommodate thousands of attendees at the same time as these were the same platforms used by millions of online gamers throughout the world, and hosted on stable, non-loadshedding susceptible platforms. The incorporation of gamification into the conference experience was also a breakthrough methodology that makes quick exhibitor stand visits compulsory for attendees. In this article, we’ll explore why an online conference with gamification is superior to a real-world event, where there is no guarantee that attendees will spend any meaningful time at exhibitor stands, aside from collecting any freebees and giveaways.
The Traditional Conundrum
Real-world events have long been touted as the gold standard for networking and establishing business connections. Attendees flock to these events in hopes of meeting industry leaders, decision-makers, and potential collaborators. However, the reality often falls short of these expectations.
- Networking Challenges: Real-world events indeed offer excellent opportunities for networking, but they come with challenges. The sheer number of attendees can make it challenging to identify and engage with the right people. Decision-makers often have packed schedules, making it difficult to secure quality face-time with them.
- Superficial Engagement: Even when attendees visit exhibitor booths, the engagement is often superficial. They might collect brochures or exchange business cards but not necessarily delve into the exhibitor’s content, services, or products in-depth. This shallow interaction can hinder the exhibitors’ ability to convey their message effectively.
- Missed Opportunities: Real-world events can be chaotic, with distractions aplenty. Attendees may miss out on valuable information and opportunities because they can’t dedicate the necessary time and attention to each exhibitor.
The Rise of Online Conferences
Online conferences have emerged as an alternative, offering convenience, cost savings, and broader accessibility. However, they’ve been criticized for their perceived lack of networking opportunities and attendee engagement. Gamification has changed this narrative by making online conferences more interactive and ensuring that attendees interact meaningfully with exhibitor content and offerings. The ability to although in the virtual world, still be able to connect at each exhibitor stand to a live stand representative in the real world via an active clickable meeting link, means that such engagements can still take place, and those attendees with a specific question or enquiry can immediately be attended to.
The Power of Gamification
Gamification is the infusion of game-like elements into non-gaming contexts. When applied to online conferences, it creates an environment where attendees are incentivized to participate actively in exhibitor activities. Here’s why this approach is superior to traditional real-world events:
- Compulsory Engagement: In online conferences with gamification, attendees are compelled to visit exhibitor stands and interact with their content. This compulsion ensures that exhibitors have the undivided attention of attendees, fostering deeper and more meaningful interactions.
- Less time spent: Although stand visits are compulsory, they are geared to be as short yet efficient as possible by restricting the length of the stand video to only 1 minute runtime maximum and the collecting of business cards and brochures to a mere few seconds. In an exhibition area of say 20 exhibitors, attendees only have to spend about 30 minutes in total – much less time compared to the 2 hours or more per day they would have spent in a real-world exhibition hall.
- Incentivized Learning: Gamification introduces rewards that motivate attendees to explore exhibitor offerings thoroughly. These rewards can range from virtual badges to even some really big prizes thus encouraging attendees to engage and complete the experience.
- Analytics for Personalization: Online platforms enable data collection on attendee behavior, allowing exhibitors to tailor their content and offerings to individual preferences. This level of personalization is often unattainable in real-world events.
- Extended Access: Online conferences can offer longer access periods than real-world events, giving attendees ample time to explore exhibitor content at their own pace. This flexibility can lead to a more comprehensive understanding of the offerings.
- Global Reach: Online conferences have a broader reach, eliminating geographical barriers. Decision-makers from around the world can attend, expanding the potential pool of valuable connections for exhibitors.
- Reduced Costs: Exhibiting at real-world events can be costly, with expenses for travel, booth setup, and promotional materials. Online conferences often offer more cost-effective options, making it easier for smaller businesses to participate.
The Role of Networking
While it’s true that online conferences may not replicate the same level of spontaneous, in-person networking found at real-world events, they are not devoid of networking opportunities. Many virtual conferences offer dedicated networking sessions, chat rooms, and virtual lounges where attendees can connect and engage in discussions.
Additionally, the enforced engagement with exhibitors can lead to more focused networking. Attendees who interact with exhibitors are likely to be genuinely interested in their products or services, creating more meaningful connections.
The EBnet 3-D Virtual Conference and EXPO
If you want conference attendees to experience exactly what you do and interact with your content, services, and products, the EBnet 3-D Virtual Conference and EXPO is the place to be, as we create precisely that ability.
In conclusion, the traditional real-world conference model, while excellent for networking, often falls short when it comes to meaningful engagement with exhibitors. Online conferences with gamification methodologies are changing the game, making it compulsory for attendees to interact deeply with exhibitors. This approach ensures that exhibitors have the attention of their target audience, fosters more profound connections, and offers a level of personalization and analytics that is unparalleled in real-world events.
As the world continues to adapt to the changing dynamics of work and communication, online conferences with gamification are poised to become the future of meaningful engagement, offering a win-win situation for both exhibitors and attendees.
Attendees can access the conference for free as costs are borne by EBnet and our exhibitors. The conference also runs for an entire week and will be open 24 hours with no set times. Attendees can therefore come and go as their schedule allows, and return multiple times to carry on where they left off.