Any trade show has a lot of moving parts. A virtual trade show has even more, and a virtual trade show on a platform built from scratch that we’ve never tested from the front-end is the thing of nightmares.
So last Thursday we decided to do a dry run on our platform to test the preparedness of our vendors, the experience for attendees, and the limits of the technology. In summary things went well, though there were a few hiccups.
We started with a plan, laying out the morning in blocks of time, just as we would during the actual trade show, with who-does-what-and-where all lined up and well organized. Each of the vendors took to their booths, and our emcees made their streaming debut (albeit to a private audience).
As always when you introduce technology into an equation you’re opening the door for entirely unforeseen and sometimes out-of-your-control issues to arise. For example, during our dry run the need for my server specs to be upgraded – something that had been in the plans for several months – suddenly became Priority One.
There were challenges with getting some live streams working, but as a group we bantered back and forth in our group chats to help develop a set of best practices, and general information shared along the way. The vendors, by and large, had no trouble with their content and their pacing in the dry run, which is encouraging. Engagement is a tricky thing in virtual world, especially when the budget to build the technology to make it happens was zero dollars.
But it’s all about the learning. We test the system, we try the things, we stress the system. Then we see what worked and what didn’t and we adapt and innovate.
After the dry run we all came together to debrief, and each group talked about what went well and what their challenges were. My job through most of this experience has been to ensure that the tech is doing its job to facilitate the trade show, but not get in the way of it. The feedback from the vendor groups was, for me, invaluable to the learning and final execution process.
The best practice list that came form the debrief will be invaluable for all of our vendors and makes us all more prepared to meet you, and all our attendees, and to do our very best for our charities on Thursday.