Two entrepreneurs are teaming up to create a new style of online expo, with the aim of attracting business people from across the UK and beyond.
Yola O’Hara, managing director of social business (ie social media) consultancy Visually Explained and David Lattimer, who runs Redro, which provides award-winning maintenance management software, came up with the idea of running a more cost-effective and user-friendly expo, targeted at smaller businesses.
The two – whose businesses are in adjoining suites – have named their event the ‘5554 Virtual Expo’ after their office numbers (55 and 54).
“Holding expos online is an interesting, location independent concept, so we decided to run one,” said Yola.
“Our plan is for the 5554 Virtual Expo to be simple, cost-effective and based on a very user-friendly platform.
“We decided to strip out many of the features that sometimes over complicate face-to-face expos – like back-to-back speakers, speed networking and so on – and focus on the central point: exhibitors meeting visitors, doing business with one another and making connections.”
David said: “We’ve attended some larger online expos for our own business, which have worked well, but we wanted to create a simpler, more cost-effective event which is better suited to SMEs.”
The platform Yola and David (pictured) have opted for is easy to use for exhibitors, as well as for visitors who attend the event.
Each exhibitor has a ‘stand’. Visitors can come along to the stand and chat to businesses, just as they would in a face-to-face event.
Visitors can also book meetings – so no more standing around and waiting until someone is free.
Similarly, exhibitors can see who is at the event, and send messages and arrange meet-ups. If an exhibitor needs to pop away for a short time or is tied up with a visitor, it is easy to make it clear whether or not they are ‘available’.
Yola and David both noticed that in face-to-face events some people on stands look out of their comfort zone and don’t know how to strike up a conversation.
But with the online platform, this is really easy. You just need to send a message in the chat and invite them to come along and say hello.
Yola added: “At physical expos, we might pass by a stand that interests us, but the business representatives are tied up.
“You stand there, feel awkward, maybe come back again or, probably, give up. This way it is easy to book time with an exhibitor. You really can get to see all the people you want to see.”
Each stand has scope for brand exposure, including marketing material, information about offers and services, banners and videos – in fact, far more space than a physical stand offers.
Because the event is all online, it should attract exhibitors and visitors from far afield, and not just those within travelling distance.
Yola said: “We’re likely to bring in businesses from far flung places in the UK and possibly from other countries too, so there will be a lot of scope for meeting new people, whether you are an exhibitor or a visitor.”
Once the event finishes it will stay online for 30 days. Although interaction will no longer be possible, it does give people the chance to go back and view stands and capture contact details.
The event will take place on February 25, and David and Yola are now inviting exhibitors to sign up.
The cost of a stand is £150 + vat, and attendance for visitors will be free.
The system is easy to use, but David and Yola are on hand to help.