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Virtual event to become a reality for the plastics industry

Already making a broad impact in multiple industries, the concept of a virtual conference and trade show will arrive in the plastics sector this September.

this September. Online events have seen explosive growth of late, with the virtual conference and trade show market more than doubling from 2008 to 2009 and forecast to enjoy a compound annual growth rate of 56% through 2015, according to March 2011 Market Research Media report.

On September 8, PlasticsToday.com, will offer the injection molding industry its own virtual conference and trade show: Continuous Improvement in Injection Molding. The conference and exhibits will be built out by PlasticsToday's sister company, UBM Studios, one of about 10 virtual event platform providers for an industry that's still largely in its infancy.

Earlier this year, UBM Studios, the Professional Convention Management Assn., and the Virtual Edge Institute released a joint report on live and virtual events, finding that "there are significant similarities, as well as fundamental differences in the experience and the results regardless of format."

The report surveyed 479 marketing and event professionals, with the key finding that "why people attended an event" and "their social behaviors when at the event" were similar whether in-person or online. More than 80% of respondents said they were comfortable/extremely comfortable connecting and networking with strangers regardless of setting.

Travel, or the lack thereof, played an expected role. The survey found that those who "enjoy" traveling for business (32%) attend more work-related conferences than those who "don't mind" travel (51%). While those who "don't enjoy" traveling for business (17%) are more likely to be heavy users of virtual meeting options.

Virtual Events show strong attendee engagement

MarketingProfs, On24, and Trendline Interactive undertook their own research study on the market, conducting 12 phone interviews, split evenly between event producers and attendees, between December 28, 2010 and January 14, 2011. Subsequent survey data was collected between March 1, 2011 and March 28, 2011 from a total of 297 respondents.

Fully 22% of the survey population said they had experience producing virtual events, while 62% said they have participated in virtual events as an attendee. About 84% of attendees said they took some action as a direct result of attending a vir­tual event, and 61% said they took two or more actions. The most common activities include visiting a vendor's site (59%) and using a search engine to gather more in­formation about a vendor featured at the event (49%).

Some 77% of attendees, including those who participate in live events as well as those who access sessions on demand, said they downloaded content materi­als through the virtual environment, making this the most popular user activity.

David Preusse, president of Wittmann Battenfeld Inc., which along with Engel, Milacron, and TMC has signed on as a signature sponsor for the event, told PlasticsToday that the decision to participate reflects how his company has "already accepted some migration into electronic media and messaging during the last few years."

"The regional shows dropped off as molders are so busy in their businesses and ROI weakened," Preusse said, "so for us, trying out this new virtual show venue was the logical next step."

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