The UK and Ireland Fuel Distributors Association held their annual expo and conference virtually through Whova on July 7th and 8th. This was their first time holding the event virtually, after canceling it in 2020. Despite having a small team of only 5 organizers, by partnering with Whova, they were able to provide high ROI for sponsors and exhibitors and plenty of networking opportunities for attendees through the app.
About UK & Ireland Fuel Distribution Expo and Future Fuels
The UKIFDA Expo and Future Fuels is the major expo for the liquid fuels distribution industry in UK and Ireland, and has been ongoing for 40 years. It’s an important opportunity for industry professionals to meet, network, launch new products, and find leads.
After having to cancel their 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers were determined to make the expo happen in 2021, even if they wouldn’t be able to meet in person. “The expo has been an industry asset for 40 years,” said UKIFDA CEO Ken Cronin. “I want to protect that, I want to nurture it, and I want to bridge a gap between now and a physical expo in 2022.”
Overall, the event was a success, and in 2022, they plan to continue to incorporate virtual elements by making the expo a hybrid event.
1. Securing high ROI for sponsors and exhibitors
As an expo, it was important that exhibitors had an effective way to display their companies and launch new products and services, with the same visibility that they would find in person. They also needed opportunities to directly interact with attendees and gather potential leads’ contact information. The event also had several sponsors, and the organizers wanted to make sure they had plenty of visibility through the app.
2. Creating tiers for sponsors and exhibitors
The organizers also wanted to sell different sponsor and exhibitor tiers. They needed a platform that would allow them to give the various tiers different levels of visibility and other benefits at the higher tiers.
The organizers could display exhibitors by tiers with Whova’s gallery view
3. Valuable networking and interaction for attendees
The expo is also a chance for industry professionals to meet, network, and collaborate. Without being able to gather in person, the organizers needed a way to help attendees naturally meet online and provide valuable networking opportunities throughout.
4. Getting everyone used to a virtual platform
As their first virtual event, it was going to be key that everyone involved — from the attendees to the exhibitors — fully understood how to access the virtual booths, attend sessions, and effectively connect with each other.
1. Setting up interactive digital booths: With Whova’s Sponsor Center and Exhibitor Hall, vendors were set up with fully customizable digital booths they could use to display their companies online. Sponsors and exhibitors could feature photos, PDFs, company videos, and set up livestreams to demonstrate their products and services. If attendees had any questions, all they had to do was submit a message through an interactive chat sidebar.
The booths were simple to set up as well! It only takes a few minutes for organizers to input information, or they can make it even more convenient by allowing vendors to set up the digital booth themselves.
Sponsors and exhibitors could display company information and interact with attendees through digital booths
Whova also has separate features for sponsors and exhibitors, which was especially convenient for an event like UKIFDA that has both. While both groups are set up with digital booths, Whova’s features focus on lead retrieval for exhibitors and visibility for sponsors. Exhibitors could collect leads directly through the app whenever attendees interacted with their virtual booths, and organizers could further sponsor visibility by displaying their company name and logo through in-app sponsor banners.
2. Simplifying attendee outreach with custom profiles: In some ways, the virtual format made connecting with attendees even easier than it would have been in person. One feature in particular made it especially easy to reach out to leads: Whova’s attendee profiles.
Whova allows attendees to fill their profiles out with personal information, like their work history, interests, and even their social media and websites. So, instead of waiting for attendees to show up at their booth, exhibitors could easily filter the attendee list to search for specific industries and interests, bookmark the profile, and send them a message inviting them to visit their booth. “That’s something you can’t do at a physical exhibition,” said organizer Dawn Shakespeare.
Exhibitors could search the attendee list to reach out to potential leads
3. Tiering sponsors and exhibitor content: The organizers could also easily create sponsor and exhibitor tiers within Whova and customize the benefits each tier would receive. For instance, by ordering the tiers, they could feature the highest paying tiers first in the sponsor and exhibitor halls to give them the best visibility and highest booth traffic.
They also created different tiers based on what vendors could display in their digital booths, with higher-tier exhibitors being able to display company videos and photos. For sponsors, organizers can tier benefits even further by controlling sponsor banner location in the app, giving the highest tier sponsors the most desirable locations.
Organizers can also choose to give sponsors the opportunity to sponsor certain sessions by displaying their logo throughout the session and playing their company video before the session begins.
4. Encouraging attendee interaction through the Community Board and messaging: Some of the event’s most valuable business connections actually came from unrelated conversations; with Whova’s Community Board event forum, attendees jump-started event-wide conversations on everything from industry topics to a thread with over a hundred messages of attendees sharing cat pictures.
But these casual conversations proved to also be valuable networking opportunities — with the ice effectively broken, attendees felt comfortable messaging each other to connect more officially.
Attendees also used the Virtual Meet-up function through the Community Board to schedule get-togethers in an online meeting room, and they could find other attendees with common interests through icebreaker prompts and attendee matchmaking, which allows attendees to match with others with common backgrounds and interests.
5. Using a convenient, intuitive virtual platform: With Whova’s intuitive, easy-to-navigate interface, there was no problem getting exhibitors attendees alike set up and well-equipped to make full use of the platform. But to make things even easier, the organizers used Whova’s resources and guides to put together a guide on how to interact as an attendee.
This way, attendees came into the event fully understanding how they could explore different exhibitor booths, attend the conference’s virtual sessions, and engage through messaging and the Community Board. Throughout the event, the team also made sure attendees were kept up to date by communicating with them through in-app announcements.
Overall, the switch to virtual was incredibly simple for everyone involved. Even among the less tech-savvy attendees, “I don’t think there was anyone who couldn’t use the app,” said Shakespeare. The new avenues for communication and interaction were so useful, they plan to incorporate these virtual elements into future hybrid events.