It was my first time joining a virtual trade show (virtually) and despite having plenty of experience with online meetings and communication I was unsure of what to expect and what the rules were. My boss was unable to attend the conference overseas and asked me to attend virtually on his behalf. I had my schedule printed out beside me and my cup of tea was perched on the shelf. Surely I was ready for this?
Lights – camera – action
The virtual attendees screens were lighting up and I quickly realised I had my kids Sesame Street background on. I scrambled to find the button to change the background and for the life of me I could not find it. At this point names were popping up all over my screen and the host of the event was introducing herself. I quickly turned my video off and then noted the name I had registered on the screen for myself, ‘Prime Minister of ZigZog’ – my children were clearly smarter than me and had previously borrowed my laptop for a school event. Things were going from bad to worse and I could hear the host asking people to break out into small groups to introduce themselves. The only thing I was breaking out into was a sweat.
Now if only I had truly prepared for the event and actually researched what I needed to do to be ready. Online exhibition manners have a lot of similarities with netiquette but there are some specific things you need to consider to prepare yourself for the event.
Surroundings – make sure your background is appropriate for the audience that you are meeting with. If your own background is messy or cluttered, either do a quick clean and tidy, or find an appropriate background screen. Make sure to test this as often the background screen can leave you looking bald or may make you look like a ghost. Pick one that is not offensive and suited to the lighting in your room.
Timing – pretty basic but showing up late is not the right thing to do. In a face to face trade show you can slide into the room usually unnoticed. Showing up late to a virtual trade show usually means your entry is noted firstly via the audio beeping for the new entrance to everyone attending and secondly you usually bump someone out of the virtual screen and often become one of the front faces.
Name tag – some virtual events will provide you with an automatic tag when joining the virtual site. Others will use the name entered on your computer or program and it is worth the 2 minutes to find out how you will be professionally identified on the screen.
Mute – oh such a simple task but so frequently forgotten! We’ve all heard the scary stories or perhaps inappropriate ones about what happened in the middle of a newscast or an important conference. The other side of this is turning the mute button off when you speak. A general indication that your mute button is still off while talking is the wildly waving arms of the other attendees. A quick game of charades? Probably not.
Introductions – these are no different virtually than they are in person. “Please tell us in 2 minutes or less a bit about yourself.” The ever so cringe-worthy moment that we all know is coming. Be prepared, be brief and make sure you cover all of the right information (full name and title if appropriate, your company/business name, your position and/or reason for attending the virtual event). Keep it light, don’t tell us about your past 14 years with the company and make sure your screen is turned on!
Food – should you or shouldn’t you? Shouldn’t is the right answer. If you are visual and others can see you it is simply best that you don’t eat in front of everyone. We all have that friend who does it… If you are dying of starvation and must break this rule, turn your video off so that the other attendees don’t have to endure last night’s leftovers.
Video on or video off? – speaking of turning your video off, there are times when this is acceptable. If you are joining a large group and watching a shared screen you do not have to have your video on. If you are joining a breakout session or joining a smaller group it is best to present yourself with your screen on and the host will most likely tell you what is expected of your viewing. Do not, I repeat do not, walk around your office, park or house with a handheld device during a video on events. This can be likened to motion sickness without actually being in a moving vehicle. If you have to change locations, computers or you are simply taking part while in transit best you turn your screen off.
Chat options – often there are chat options available during the event. These can be between attendees or to the overall group. Be very mindful of your audience and make sure the comments are safe and related to the topic being discussed. It is very easy to write the whole group in error when you thought you were just writing to your friend and very difficult to back out of it.
Breaks – a basic necessity and often unplanned. Make sure you try to stay on the time-lines organised by the event manager and if you have to sneak out, make sure your video is turned off.
Mind your manners – the event is a professional show and your best behaviour is expected. It can sometimes be difficult hiding behind a screen not to show your heightened emotions however remember that manners and courtesy are a prerequisite for enabling future relationships to occur. You are representing yourself and most likely a company and need to uphold your professionalism even if you are in the comforts of your own lounge.
Aladdin B2B specialise in trade shows and can provide all of the tools required to guarantee the show exceeds your expectations. Contact AladdinB2B for more information on making your virtual trade show a reality.