While not every Haymarket brand that hosts online events is maintaining a perpetual online environment, "The principal of following the lead-gen model and running events that kick back leads to supporting vendors … is being followed pretty much universally," Keefe says.
Haymarket replicates the conventional trade-show environment, with sessions throughout the day, virtual exhibit halls, speaker and networking lounges, and resource centers. "We find … the more you replicate a traditional trade-show environment, the easier it is for people to find their way around," Keefe says.
However, options exist for hosts looking to break out of the traditional "convention center" mold. "You can just as well take a green tree in a meadow and have a picnic," Rathenberg notes. "Intel had a huge [virtual] sales conference and did all their sessions on a beach, meeting in huts with speakers with Hawaiian shirts. They had a blast."
Publishers that don't want to stray that far from the norm can still offer attendees a variety of engaging features, such as the ability to download materials into a "virtual show bag," build in virtual hosts (avatars) who look like real people and interact on the show floor, and announcements made via pop-up notices that highlight certain sessions or sponsor booths. "Basically," Foster says, "attendees [at the virtual car show] will be able to do everything they can at a physical show ... [except] sit inside a car."
Sponsors can utilize green screens with logos, build in informational videos or take advantage of scrolling marquees and other banner opportunities. They also can get creative with booths, making them essentially private meeting rooms, allowing public and private chats to occur simultaneously, even in some cases utilizing live translation. "If you chat with someone in China, you can type everything in English, and [he or she] will read everything in Chinese," Rathenberg says.