Different Beasts: Comparing the On-Site vs Virtual Conference Sponsorship Experience

When the curtain goes down on the Microsoft Dynamics conference where you’ve been manning your company’s booth, how do you judge success?

Chances are, you look at a few things—the number of business cards dropped into your fish bowl, the number of people who stopped by to look over your brochures and product samples, and the number of potentially serious inquiries you received. And you’ll have a “feel” for whether the overall traffic was better or worse than you expected.

When you get back to your office, though, you may well struggle to make sense out of much of the information you’ve brought back. You won’t know what, if any, information the people who dropped business cards into the fish bowl took from your table. You won’t know anything about the people who stopped by to look over your brochures and product samples, without leaving a business card. And you have to hope you can still read your notes about those potentially serious inquiries.

At the end of a virtual Dynamics conference, you will likely experience different feelings. You may well feel let down that you can’t shuffle through a thick set of business cards. There certainly won’t have been a lot of hand shaking and eye contact with people strolling past your booth.

It’s only when you access your data portal that you truly comprehend the key difference between having a booth at an on-site conference and at a virtual conference. While you’ll likely struggle to make sense of visitor information from the on-site conference, you’ll find a treasure trove of data in your virtual conference data portal.

There will be a complete record of each individual who stopped to view your booth, including company affiliation and contact information. You’ll know exactly which company content each visitor took along from your booth—whether a brochure, white paper, case study, or demo. You’ll be able to immediately forward email responses tailored to each individual according to the content he or she downloaded.

And for those more serious prospects who chatted with you, well, you’ll have a complete record of the chat transcript, including requests for further info or product quotes. No need to try to decipher illegible and incomplete notes.

All this isn’t to say that one format is better than another. There is no replacing the direct person-to-person contact and networking that occurs at an on-site conference. And there is no replicating the completeness of the data you extract from a virtual conference.

From ISV marketing strategists, then, the best decision they can make is to incorporate both formats into their marketing plans. There will always be a need for high-quality in-person conferences because there will always be a need for people with similar interests to meet and talk and exchange ideas.

Increasingly, marketers will find that virtual conferences are indispensable as well—not only because of the low overhead costs and minimal time demands, but most important, because they deliver data that translates into market prospects and sales leads.

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