Not our words, but those of a leading exhibition industry figure in one of the LinkedIn groups that we follow.
This is backed up by some of our own research which shows that, on average, an attendee at a virtual event connects with and exchanges details with 13 other people. From our own experience this is far more than at any exhibition we have ever attended, and on a par with the most intimate conference or meeting.
While large, live exhibitions are great for getting close to products and getting a feel for the company you might want to deal with they are not ideal for networking with your peers (despite what any event marketing manager will tell you relentlessly within their campaign communications).
Because they are simply too huge, too disparate and don’t create areas where individuals who have the same interest or problem can congregate to exchange ideas.
A virtual event environment is built specifically to do this. Meeting rooms, discussion topics and even conference presentations all have the facility to see who else is interested in the same topic. You can even see a list of their names and get an idea of who they are without having to scout around looking for an entry badge helpfully stuffed in a pocket. If you strike up a virtual chat you can exchange business cards, or maybe call them via Skype.
What virtual environments have also conquered is the concept of real accessibility for all. Even the best of venues cannot accommodate for everyone because while they are designed to allow for a wide range of physical disabilities they cannot cater for the delegate who suffers from agoraphobia or the one who cannot bear to be in enclosed spaces without having a clear escape route.
Only by embracing new virtual technologies and blending them with the very best of live events will we finally be communicating with everyone in a particular community.