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Event Strategy

Conferences and Exhibitions Converge

The Event industry is alive and well. We can thank our increasingly fragmented, digital world for the assist. Why? Because live events are now one of the few remaining ways for a group of people with similar interests to meet, in the physical world, and exchange ideas, experiences and (likely) a few beers.

But the popularity of live events also brings competition. There are only so many events a person can attend and therefore the selection criterion gets more involved every year. This is particularly true for business-to-business (B2B) events where the schedule and budget of the attendee are influenced (if not controlled) by others in their organization.

So how should event organizers respond? Focus on the value chain. If you produce a conference, how are you helping your sponsors connect with your attendees? Do they sit at tables in the hallway jumping out at your attendees like used car sales people trying to grab their attention?

If you produce a trade show or exhibition, are you merely renting a big space into which to put a bunch of buyers and sellers, leaving the industry education up to them?


Attendees find value in both, so to maximize both time and budget dollars, they increasingly want both in the same event. A conference that brings thought leadership, introducing new ideas and opportunities, and exhibition that aggregates all of the important vendors within a segment in one place so they can efficiently learn about new products and services.

Forward-thinking event organizers have leveraged this convergence between conference and exhibition, a term @EventMB calls “Confibition“, as a means to drive value for their attendees *and* sponsors.


The team at Virtual Event Bags sees a parallel theme, and that is one of Integration. For the top-performing event organizers with whom we work, the spirit of integration flows through every facet of their event, but is particularly focused on two areas:

  • Bringing sponsors into the educational process, and
  • Making technology invisible

Sponsors + Education

The spirit of a conference is one of education. The sharing of best practices, new ideas, thought leadership and more. It is a place where people within an industry can gather for a few days to come out of the trench to see how and what their peers are doing.

The spirit of an exhibition is the connection of buyers and sellers. Buyers attend events to efficiently see and learn about new products and services that can help them in their business. Sellers (sponsors/exhibitors) are there to … well … sell! But it’s not quite that simple. Sponsors also attend events to learn about industry trends and to get direct input from their customers on the challenges they face (i.e. education).

3 ideas for integrating sponsors/exhibitors into your educational program:

  1. 1. Sharing perspectives on trends: Sponsors (vendors) have a unique perspective because they get to see how a number of companies in a segment are responding to issues. Leverage that perspective to provide attendees a rare bird’s eye view of these trends through a moderated panel discussion.
  2. 2. Structured demo sessions: The proliferation of technology products has made life difficult for all of us. Learning about these new products has become arduous. Help both your sponsors and attendees by structuring short (10 +/- minute) demo sessions periodically throughout the conference. This works extremely well when grouped together by category. For exhibitions, consider designating a section of the show floor specifically for these sessions. For conferences, consider incorporating these sessions into the program. Bonus points – record these sessions for future video playback on your event site.
  3. 3. Use sponsors as moderators: Similar to point #1, sponsors (vendors) have a bird’s eye of the industry, so consider using them as moderators for panel discussions involving industry experts. Sponsors hear questions and comments from the industry all day, every day, so they will likely have unique insight into what the audience will want to hear from the panel.

Making Your Event Tech Invisible

There is no denying that despite being “live,” events are dominated by technology. Done well, this technology can significantly enhance the attendee (and sponsor) experience and is seamless in it’s usability.

“The best technology is invisible.”  — Steve Jobs

As a vendor to the event industry, Virtual Event Bags gets to work with a lot of events that are struggling with making technology invisible. The reason? They tend to focus on the various technology providers as discrete tools solving specific issues v. working in harmony to deliver an exceptional attendee/sponsor experience.

3 ideas for making event tech invisible

  1. 1. Perform an event tech audit: Take the time to review the entire stack of event technologies utilized by your event and the points at which an attendee (and sponsor) engage with these technologies. How many times do they have to enter info? How many discrete messages/notifications do they receive? It is important to understand all the touch points before you can begin to make improvements.
  2. 2. Develop a full-event communication plan: Your event starts well before people show up to check in and therefore so should your communication plan. Start with an email audit. To be blunt, we find that events abuse email and flood their attendees with discrete messages; from vendors, sponsors and themselves. Consider every messaging channel (email, social, website, mobile notifications, printed material) and every delivery point (before, during and after) the event.
  3. 3. Integrate your tools: At Virtual Event Bags, we have always focused on “playing nice” with the existing event technology of our customers. Our tool therefore integrates with registration tools like Eventbrite, eTouches and Active and can be incorporated effortlessly with mobile apps like Crowd Compass, Double Dutch, Bizzabo and many others. This approach allows events to make the Virtual Event Bag platform “invisible,” with the focus instead on the very important connection between sponsor and attendee.

The moral to this post …

“Convergence you will achieve when integration is your beginning.”  — yoda

Yoda - 02





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