The Booth is dead. Long live the Booth*

GE RSNAHumans, if nothing else, are creatures of habit.  Which goes a long way to explaining why it can take a seemingly inordinate amount of time to introduce a new business practice or why the first reaction to change is often resistance.

The development of the Virtual Experience Platform has followed a path that has taken this need for security in acquaintance into account. The first iterations of the technology frequently been labelled Virtual Event Platforms: two-thirds of which are clearly understood by the majority of the business population and one-third which requires but a little explanation.

By creating an environment online which replicates much of what we would experience (except the transport delays, bad coffee and lack of seating) at a live event, early pioneers of virtual events have been able to cross that line from innovation to familiarity in a very short period of time.  With an inherent understanding, participants know that to view a presentation they must navigate to the auditorium, to participate in a moderated chat they must go to a meeting room and that in the exhibition halls they will find organisations and their representatives promoting their products and services on digital booths.

And therein lies the difficulty.  To many, the term Booth just doesn’t cut the mustard.  It says static and without innovation, like the Grandma at a teenager’s party.

The discussion Are trade show booths in a virtual event really relevant any more?  was started on LinkedIn by Richard Feldman in the Virtual Events and Meeting Technology group and has already managed to traverse into other virtual events related groups on the site.  Amongst the comments about the unsatisfactory nature of the Booth in the virtual environments are some that would be awfully familiar to a live event producer: lack of information and content from the booth owner; and the need to illustrate real ROI, particularly where the booth has been paid for as part of a sponsorship package.  A number of individuals comment that sponsoring companies should be scattered around the virtual environment for best exposure rather than having a single site presence (aka a Booth) – but why can’t they have both?

Which brings us to another conundrum… if you aren’t going to have Booths at your virtual event, what are you going to have to push your delegates to part of the site that the sponsor owns, you can’t have lists and links need to go somewhere… You need to create an area that the sponsor owns and can create as their own.  Ideally you should be using one of the high performing platforms such as 6Connex, Ubivent, On24 or InXpo that allow this creative and design flexibility so that Booths don’t necessarily have to look like… well Booths.

Perhaps this is one of those chicken and egg discussions, where we pretty sure that we aren’t happy with the status quo, but there doesn’t seem to be a suitable, more effective or as easily understood alternative. Rather than concentrating our energies on trying to find a ‘booth-alternative’ shouldn’t we be focusing on getting clients and participants enthused and engaged in the concept of creating great, relevant content for the virtual audiences?

*Booth = Stand