Events professionals rely heavily upon the general services contractor, often called decorators, at in-person conventions. The decorator transforms the cavernous hall into an inviting small city of exhibit booths with colorful signage, carpet, and impressive structures. The general services contractor builds the event, tears it down, and solves problems for the event planners, exhibitors, and sponsors during the entirety of the conference.
Your event is now virtual – who performs the exhibit hall services typically supplied by the decorator?
Although you don’t have meter boards and signs hanging from rigging, someone must design and place signage on the virtual event’s website. A stage doesn’t need to be built for the plenary but an aesthetically pleasing virtual room should be built, complete with branding and graphics with the show look. You won’t have aisle and directional signs for your event, but attendees must be able to navigate easily between sessions, the exhibit hall, and meeting rooms.
The short answer is that as the Expo professional in charge of the virtual event, you must become the decorator. At Sponsorship Boost we have discovered that executing virtual events takes several times the man hours of an in-person event, and adding the responsibilities of the virtual decorator to your scope of responsibility is one reason why this is true. Below we list some best practices we have learned while performing the duties of the virtual decorator for our clients’ events.
Your New Venue
Your virtual platform is now your venue. Just as you would visit every contracted space on a site visit for a live event, familiarize yourself with the session rooms, exhibit hall, and meeting spaces on your virtual platform. When you demo a platform, learn which areas can be branded by sponsors, how many exhibitors can be in the hall, and how many attendees can fit in a virtual meeting room. The more familiar you are with your virtual platform’s website the more you can take advantage of its attributes during your event.
Work closely with your marketing team to develop eye catching graphics that make your virtual meeting space unique. Use every branding opportunity available on your chosen platform – sell sponsored ads and banners, but also make certain that your event logo and show look is prominently displayed throughout the website. Use customizable features of your virtual platform to present a clean, inviting meeting space that’s easy to navigate.
Create an Exhibitor Service Kit
General Service Contractors send exhibiting companies a service kit several months before a live event detailing the rules of exhibiting, the hours of the exhibit hall, and how to purchase furniture and AV equipment for their booth. Exhibitors will have similar questions for a virtual booth, and it’s best to anticipate these questions and have the answers available in a virtual service kit.
Virtual Booth Walk-Through
Virtual platforms offer different levels of service for exhibitors – some are fairly “DIY” and others require that companies submit information which is then built into the platform by developers. These platforms are new to exhibitors, and they share very few features, so it’s important to clearly state what, when, and how the exhibitor’s information will appear on the platform. You might decide to include an instructional video walk through or a helpful PDF, but however you communicate, make sure to include the following:
What features the virtual exhibit booth includes
When assets must be submitted
Where and when assets will appear on the virtual platform
How to retrieve analytics information
Code of Conduct
Virtual events need their own Code of Conduct and Terms and Conditions. Live events have exhibiting terms and conditions as well as booth inspections to ensure that exhibitors are following the rules on the exhibit floor. Outline the rules of your virtual event and have exhibitors sign them so that there is no ambiguity on how the virtual space may be used and what behavior is acceptable during the event.
Support During the Event
Ideally your organization purchased technical support during your event. However, this support is generally limited in duration and scope. Be prepared to offer your exhibitors and sponsors a way to contact you for assistance. Many company representatives aren’t comfortable in a virtual environment, so be prepared for some hand-holding before, during and after your meeting.
As your virtual event approaches embrace your new role as the event decorator. The attention to detail and problem-solving abilities that make you an exceptional event planner will serve you well as you guide participants through your virtual event.