As the world continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, a sense of normalcy is slowly returning – with lockdowns lifting, stores and restaurants beginning to reopen and workers coming back into the office.
While this slow progress is being made, it is likely that we will not fully return to “normal” until vaccines are administered or other medical advances are uncovered to slow or stop the spread of the virus. This means that mass gatherings such as sporting events, trade shows and conferences aren’t going to come back anytime soon.
For the transportation industry, and others, trade shows and conferences are key outlets to share ideas, learn about new technology and business approaches and network with peers. Although the transportation industry saw many of its major conferences begin to either postpone or cancel their 2020 events, a new approach is also surfacing: virtual transportation trade shows and other online events.
In May 2020, Trimble announced that its annual in.sight user conference + expo would be held virtually in August. This is part of a broader trend in going online, with Forbes estimating that the number of virtual events has increased 1000 percent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whether you are planning to join us at in.sight or take part in another virtual transportation trade show or event, virtual conferences can still help you learn and network, providing you value for your time (and investment).
Some important aspects of virtual events to consider include:
1. Connecting in the Time of a Pandemic
Regardless of if you have been working remotely or operating on the frontlines during COVID-19, we have all experienced fewer face-to-face interactions with friends, neighbors and the world at large.
Virtual events can break up the solitude and monotony of being stuck at home, giving you the opportunity to connect with like-minded people from across the world and get fresh perspectives on industry trends and topics. While it might not be an exact substitute for in-person meetings, being able to see and talk to another person through your webcam or smartphone can give us all a sense of the world that exists outside of our collective quarantines.
2. Harnessing the Power of Technology
Virtual transportation trade shows and other events are possible, in large part, due to major advances in technology, wireless networks and in-home devices. This has driven a rapid increase in video chats and online group meetings – such an increase that video, including web conferencing, will account for 80 percent of all Internet traffic by 2021, according to Data Connectors.
This trend means that virtual conference presenters are no longer confined to a single conference room but available to people throughout the world. This is enabling event organizers to not only hold conferences online but also to expand on interactivity throughout, including leveraging features such as online polling, real-time quizzes and chat, each allowing for more collaboration when compared to in-person events.
3. Streamlining Learning
The added benefit of technology’s role in virtual transportation trade shows and conferences is that it is reshaping how information is delivered.
Take, for example, the educational components of events. Oftentimes, attendees get a handout of slides or a notepad to capture notes and key takeaways, likely from a presentation screen at the front of the room. What’s more, you are only able to physically be in one place at a given time, which may mean you miss some other interesting presentations that are held at the same time as the session you attend.
With streaming video and other web-based technology, educational content is able to be served up in new and more efficient ways. Attendees may be able to access educational content and session replays on-demand. This self-serve model not only opens attendees up to a broader base of information but also allows them to reference the relevant content post-event, further enabling educational opportunities after the show is through.
4. Recreating the Transportation Trade Show Experience
Although technology can’t fully replace all aspects of attending a transportation trade show, it is certainly coming close. Key components of events, including general sessions and keynote speeches, are being delivered online.
The concept of an “expo hall” is also being reimagined in the digital world. Some platforms are enabling attendees to visit a virtual hall, meet with exhibitors, check out product innovations and network – all through the internet.
5. Staying Engaged While Online
One of the pitfalls of working remotely and attending a virtual event is the risk of being distracted. Whether it is answering emails, browsing the web or taking care of something at home, the value of attending a virtual event is only achieved by truly being present during it.
Event software platform Cvent cites several ways that event hosts can drive attendee engagement but attendees can also take the time to close browser tabs, silence phones and find a quiet space to attend sessions. While there is no surefire way to eliminate distractions while working remotely, these tips can help set you up for maximum engagement while joining a virtual conference.
While COVID-19 has reshaped a lot of how we work and interact, virtual events are one indication of how technology is allowing us to pivot and remain productive during a pandemic. Although it may be a while before we all get together in person again, virtual conferences are filling the void and enabling collaboration, networking and education in innovative ways, benefits that may reshape the world of transportation events – both during the COVID-19 outbreak and in the years ahead.
Want to join Trimble virtually in August at in.sight to see the latest innovations in the world of transportation? Stay up to date on registration information and other details by visiting us online.