Since the Covid pandemic started in 2020, the world has been forced to reinvent and to adapt itself to the new reality and keep moving forward. Digitization or virtualization is at the heart of this change, as it was no longer possible to travel and meet like before. Many fields have been, and are affected, in particular the events, where most of them have migrated online, fully or partially, and with more or less success. This ranges from simple webinars to Virtual Exhibitions, the most advanced ones offer 2D and 3D navigation, advanced networking functions, live or pre-recorded multi-language conferences, etc. . From these online events, experts observed clear differences in the behaviors of participants, both visitors and exhibitors, when these events migrate from a traditional exhibition hall to their online counterpart.
In this article, we will share these findings, their analysis, as well as solutions to adapt to this new reality and leverage them to make online events more successful.
The organizers are unanimous on the following phenomena:
1) Very often, the number of participants present at online events isfar below those registered, despite the reminders by email before the events, and after the first day, there is an erosion on the following ones.
2) Additionally, when visitors (actually e-visitors) attend, they tend to stay at the on-line events for a short time only.
Looking closely, these phenomena actually come from the fundamental difference between the on-line version and the traditional off-line version, since:
1) the participants, both the e-visitor and the e-exhibitor, are not physically in the same place
2) Their time is fragmented.
1) E-visitor: he is in front of his screen (computer, e-pad or smartphone), at home or sometimes at the office. As he is not physically present at the event venue, he doesn’t need to care about the return on investment of the physical trips he did before, thus not obliged to devote 100% of his time to visit booths and conferences.
Also, working at the office or at home, he often receives other solicitations to which he must or wants to satisfy immediately (calls from customers, urgent emails from colleagues, crying children, interesting TV programs, etc.), leaving temporarily the event or online conference he was following. He will come back to it (or not) depending on the situation.
This fragmentation of his time, and therefore of his activities, greatly impacts the level of activity of virtual events.
2) E-exhibitor: like e-visitor, he is in front of his screen, and not required to be physically present at his booth as in a traditional event.
Like the e-visitor, he also receives a lot of external solicitations and tends to respond spontaneously, while waiting for the notification of the e-visit of his booth,for which he must enter in communication with the e-visitor if the latter wishes to communicate with a representative of the online booth. After that he will go back to what he was doing before the interrupt, and before the next visit notification. This lack of concentration also reduces the effectiveness of online events.
What are the alternatives to reduce these impacts?
The answer to this question is all the more interesting as variants of the Covid continuously impact us, speeding up the digitalization in different fields. As a result, online events have become a common and increasingly important solution. 
For us, improvements will need to come from both sides, the event platform and the participants.
First, we believe that on the organizer side, an adaptation of the format of the events is desirable in order to avoid this phenomenon of erosion of the number of participants over time. Actually, there is no need to keep traditional events format, which last 2-4days and with lengthy conferences lasting 1-2 hours.
For the online version, a shorter duration, with more concise conferences of 10-15 minutes with take-aways, and available in replay, will well respond to this phenomenon of time fragmentation of e-visitors.
Then, offer more networking possibilities, with speed dating and matchmaking sessions , to recommend to e-visitors booths that match their needs and interests. This will tend to increase the visit time of e-visitors,for the visit of booths as well as the attendance of conferences, leading to increased activities of e-exhibitors and increased interactions with speakers, thus improving their ROI, financial and time spent.
Finally, the choice of the topics of the events will have to match the needs and challenges of our rapidly changing society, with the accelerated digitization in different fields, enabling their smart management.More participants will undoubtedly arouse the interest of e-exhibitors and expert speakers who will find there a targeted, interested, and therefore valuable audience.
We also recommend that e-exhibitors make efforts towards e-visitors, with games, demos, and animations on their e-booth, be proactive on the chat, etc. In short, go and seek e-visitors and not wait passively behind their screen. In fact, it’s the same than in a classic event, and virtualization shouldn’t change these good habits!
In this article, we have shared our thoughts and experiences coming from dozens of virtual events organized on the Must Expo platform (https://must.link/) and those of our colleagues since 2020. We analyzed the interesting behaviors of participants, and from there we have redesigned our events in 2022, more targeted and optimized, with a community that grows every day, to share knowledge and network with peers within their ecosystem, and this is precisely the goal of Must !
 This is the case of Must, the young French start-up member of French Tech Paris-Saclay, which offers, thanks to its Artificial Intelligence engine, the features to connect e-visitors and / or e-exhibitors, for better networking efficiency and user experience. Must launched its first virtual exhibition in July 2020
 « Virtual events, why the hybrid is the solution of the future » published by Must Experts team at March 2021