As the first and one of the most prominent brands that decided to pull out of the recent CEDIA Expo in Indianapolis last month, Savant based their difficult decision on placing the safety of their employees and customers as their key concern in a time of surging Delta-variant COVID infections. But that decision did not mean that they didn’t want to communicate with their dealers about the many exciting developments at the company. So Savant developed a powerful two-pronged approach (the 1-2 punch I mentioned) to deliver their dealers a better – virtual – trade show.
See more on the Savant virtual tradeshow…
Since the onset of COVID in 2020, almost the entire world was forced to pivot to communicating via online options, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, GoToMeeting, and the like. It was a workaround that allowed communications to continue on in the virtual realm, rather than the in-person one.
This solution was a godsend, allowing business to carry on – even during a COVID lockdown. But after more than a year-and-a-half of Zoom meetings, researchers are beginning to discover that users are increasingly suffering from Zoom fatigue. There are many theories about what is causing this fatigue with virtual presentations. Some believe that it is due to the often static nature of online presentations with pre-recorded video presentations, or set PowerPoint slide decks…that users just sit and watch as a recorded narrative drones on. A few of these a day and your mind can turn to mush.
Savant’s challenge was to create a new style of presentation that was more interactive, more immersive, and as customized and impactful as possible. That is a tall order that required research and creativity.
Fortunately, this capability is emerging as a bit of a superpower for Savant, as it first experimented with creating a better virtual presentation last year when it created a virtual showroom presentation to show off its newly remodeled New York City facility. I also wrote about it again earlier this year when the company opened a new West Coast Experience Center in Nevada.
Savant utilized special software to create a 3D-like virtual walk-thru offering a you-are-there kind of experience. The visuals are clear and compelling with symbols indicating navigation paths and spots of interest where users can click for expanded graphic or video explanations at that spot. It worked really well and the company tapped into the lessons learned from that project to turbo-charge a virtual trade show experience for its dealers.
A Better Virtual Expo Connection with Dealers
To begin, Savant set up their actual CEDIA Expo booth, the physical one, in a large warehouse which works well as an analog for an exhibition hall. They even use the typical draping around the outer edges of the space, which only serves to enhance the illusion of being at a trade show. The physical booth was then used to create a virtual version.
The company went on to create an online realm where integrators could schedule their “virtual booth tour.” This tour would be live and interactive, usually with their area sales manager acting as their tour guide. The tour is customized for each individual dealer, focusing only on those areas of interest and significance to them. It is a live walk-thru where the dealer can ask questions as they go.
Well-Produced Presentations of Key Product Display Areas in Virtual Booth
While integrators wait for their scheduled tour time, the company has posted an expansive collection of videos recorded in their actual booth, walking dealers through individual product display areas in the booth. The video production is highly professional and the presentations are tight, clean, and informative.
Savant obviously put some effort into these videos – trying to mimic, as best you can, a live trade show, but in a virtual realm. So, for example, in one of them, a product manager started presenting a product category to another Savant person acting as an integrator. This “integrator” asked sometimes incisive questions, going deeper into the technology behind the products, much as would happen on a real show floor.
This is our resourcefulness here at work,” Larson laughed. Then adding seriously, “I think we’d all prefer to have this interaction live, but in the world of hybrid that I think is in front of us, this is not out of the realm of something I think a lot of us are going to need to continue in the future.”Larson, Commenting on the liklihood of a hybrid live/virtual marketing communication process going forward
A Competition to See Who is the Fastest at Installing Blinds
In another video, the company staged a competition between a Savant product manager and an actual dealer to see who could install their blinds the fastest. It was clever and fun and of course made a great point about the ease of installation of Savant blinds. This is the kind of stunt you’d see at an actual show.
You can take your own self-guided tour of these videos, jumping around to only those areas of particular interest to you – or rather, you can watch them in a linear fashion to see it all. Either way, they offered a lot of content in digestible bites.
Savant Deep-Dive Education
Augmenting this one-two virtual expo, Savant also created what Angela Larson, Savant’s Senior Vice President of Customer Operations, says was a series of deep-dive educational courses on key technical topics. Also delivered virtually, Larson says this whole package – the Virtual Expo, Virtual Booth Tour, and Deep-Dive Education – recreated the totality of an actual physical trade show experience, but in the virtual space.
The company didn’t start their deep-dive education program until a week after the physical CEDIA Expo in Indianapolis wrapped up so that they didn’t conflict with the live event. But like the virtual booth tour, their education courses provided for two-way communication with the ability for attendees to ask questions on the fly and give feedback.
Virtual Events Versus In-Person Events
I asked Larson her thoughts on the trade-off of virtual events versus in-person events.
“The silver lining, so to speak, is that oftentimes you have more depth from the integrators than you would have gotten on a trade show floor,” Larson told me. “On a trade show floor maybe you get two or three of their employees, but what we’ve found [with virtual events] the integrator is willing to commit to bringing more people. So we’ve seen bigger groups of people [from each integrator] come through the virtual space than we would have in-person.”
Larson told me that the response to Savant’s Virtual Expo was spectacular. She told me that there were 26,000 views on their Virtual Expo page – a number with which they were obviously thrilled.
Also, the company had no fewer than 3,200 attendees to their Deep-Dive Education courses. “Yeah…it was awesome!” Larson exclaimed.
Currently, the company is conducting 60 Virtual Booth Tours a week. Originally, they had planned to have these completed by the end of October, but Larson says they now believe they will keep this open to the end of the year. Clearly, interest remains high as more dealers sign up for a tour.
Take a Tour of Savant’s Virtual Booth
Hey, Savant integrators! Want to take a tour of Savant’s Virtual Booth? Sign up at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be patient, there is a long line in front of you!
Learn more about Savant by visiting: savant.com.