We’ve heard the complaints: virtual events just aren’t the same as in-person ones. While they are decidedly different, each has distinct benefits. And while we all have had plenty of practice at in-person events, virtual events are relatively new. So perhaps attendees haven’t yet mastered all that they need to maximize this type of event.
The International Sign Association has hosted more than half a dozen virtual events in the past year—with dozens more on tap for 2021—so it’s safe to say that there is some experience from the organizing perspective. While ISA International Sign Expo 2021 will be the biggest virtual event by far, ISA’s experience can help attendees make the most of ISA Sign Expo 2021 Virtual.
We’ll feature many of these tips and tricks in upcoming blog posts—all designed to take advantage of the benefits of a virtual event and make the most of ISA Sign Expo in particular.
But for now, let’s start with some high-level advice:
- Clear your schedule. One of the reasons virtual events fail to live up to an in-person event is the lack of singular focus. With an in-person event, you’ve left your office. Your clients know your gone. Your staff knows you aren’t always immediately reachable. And you are focused only on gathering that new product, new learning, new contact or new resource. Approach a virtual event the same way. Let your clients know you’ll be unavailable. Tell the staff not to disturb you. If you’re still working from home, don’t try to juggle laundry, deliveries and your child’s virtual school while attending. Treat a virtual event with the same singular focus that you would an in-person one.
Take just a minute now, to block out the following times on your calendar:
- 11 a.m. (ET) to 5:30 p.m., April 7
- 1 p.m. (ET) to 7:30 p.m., April 8
- 10 a.m. (ET) to 5 p.m., April 9.
- Plan ahead. Just as with an in-person event, there will be more things to attend than your schedule will allow. While the broad outlines are currently available on www.signexpo.org/schedule/, you can find more details at www.signexpo.org/features/. Use this as a starting point to prioritize what you absolutely must attend. Don’t forget to book out time to explore the exhibit hall, either. Keep an eye on the www.signexpo.org website as speakers are booked and education sessions detailed. That will help you continue refining your optimal schedule.
- Commit to joining in. The connections made during an in-person event can last a lifetime. So can the virtual connections made, if you’re fully engaged in the chats during the education sessions, participating in the networking events and carrying the conversation into social media.
- Divide and conquer. This is one area where a virtual event has a distinct advantage over an in-person one. If the event were occurring in Las Vegas, budgets would prevent allowing every single one of your employees from attending. With virtual—and free attendee registration—there are no limits on how many of your staff can join.
Consider assigning key staff to attend fully while targeting participation among others. Use Learners’ Hub Sessions to train staff in areas that position them for growth. Have your production team spend time in the exhibit hall looking for solutions to problems you may not even know exist. Let your sales team explore the Solution Showcases so they can understand the innovations occurring among the product categories they sell. And don’t leave anyone out. Attending an industry trade event can boost morale among all staff—without bursting the budget.
No, a virtual event isn’t the same as in-person. But with a little advance planning and creative thinking, you just might find in some ways it can be better.