The French company Inod designed a tool to organize virtual events.
Crédits photos : Inod Solutions
Inod, a French company founded in 2016 in Laval (Mayenne), imagines immersive solutions for professionals. The projects that Inod creates meet mainly to communication, marketing and sales assistance needs. With the health crisis and the cancellation of physical events, Inod lost most of its orders. But the company bounced back quickly and this difficult moment turned into an opportunity. Indeed, Inod created its own solution for virtual fairs. Anthony Hacques, cofounder of Inod, tells us how this solution was born and grew over the months.
In 2020, you created your solution for virtual fairs. How did this adventure start?
It was through contact I knew before. We met again in the Laval Virtual World [in April 2020, ed.]. We wanted to organize virtual fairs, like the Laval Virtual World, but without the constraint of having to download an application, which can sometimes be a problem. So we worked together on a first project in May.
Between May and today, did you organize other virtual fairs?
In June, we carried out the first virtual fair in 3 weeks for the LAFI company. There were 40 renowned exhibitors (Microsoft, Acer, HP, Intel, AMD), including important IT companies. 500 participants came on one day at this private event, with key accounts as visitors. It worked well and we planned another five fair dates with the same client at the end of 2020. The fact that it’s an online fair with a 3D discovery experience is very appealing in terms of fluidity and accessibility.
Your solution was used for the West Data Festival last February.
Yes, we have been close to Laval Mayenne Technolopole for years. During a conversation with Christophe Travier [director of LMT, ed.], I showed him our solution for virtual fairs, and he liked it. He immediately said: “It would be perfect for the West Data Festival!”. After that, we simply organized the fair. Once this was validated, we provided our requirements to the exhibitors who sent us the necessary elements. Then our team took care of the entire integration.
You are talking about integration. Does this mean that you integrate the elements in a virtual environment that is generated beforehand?
Basically, we have an environment with a typology of booths, and only the layout of the reception area is standardised. This is the starting point. If an organizer tells us “I’m okay with this”, our job, one the exhibitors are listed, is to be in contact with them, get their data to integrate them, and then we provide the platform as it is in its standardised form. Afterwards, we can customise an event as much as we like. Both in terms of the environments and the booth created, we can really choose completely different environments. Currently, we are making an event for a key account, the Crédit Agricole Anjou Maine, with a totally different environment and design.
So you provide tailor-made services with your solution?
Indeed, and depending on the needs of the clients. Sometimes a client wants his own identity in the environment. Often, it’s because he has a long-term vision of the use of the fair, and not necessarily a one-shot use. So he wants to make the design his own. So they commission us to create everything from A to Z by writing a specification. For this, we have the chance to have our own 3D content production studio. For big corporate, this solution allows them to have a constant showcase, with the possibility of organising one-off events (conferences, animation with stands etc.).
In concrete terms, what does your solution look like when people enter a virtual fair designed by you?
Simply, there are exhibitors’ booths, and we have the possibility of getting in touch with them. When it’s a special time, you can get in touch with the exhibitor directly by videoconference, or you can make an appointment via a link and a calendar. Our aim is to really highlight the exhibitors and create leads. There is also a part where we can integrate a programme of conferences and special times (workshops, product presentations, etc.). Here, each participant can participate in the session that interests him.
At the end of the event, we are also able to provide commercial data to exhibitors. We can tell them which visitor visited which booth or clicked on which element. This allows exhibitors to have commercial data to use to recontact the customer afterwards, and therefore to generate business. This is the main goal.
Do you think that these virtual and hybrid event solutions will last beyond the context we are living in today? Is it a solution for the future?
I believe it! Well, you never know… Often, you’re convinced that it’s going to stay, but you also tell yourself that when life goes back to normal, people will forget about it. There may be a moment of hesitation when we can meet in person and spend evenings together, when we say “stop the avatars and the virtual”. When the crisis is over, there will be a quiet moment. In addition, the event industry will have a slowndown to catch up on. But quite quickly, I think that they will look at the virtual for many reasons: to extend the event, to increase the audience in particular.
In addition, going to a physical exhibition requires a lot of logistics, costs and time. We all have very busy schedules and we don’t necessarily have time to go to all the events that interest us. Having a virtual “mirror” of the physical event will therefore be important. The virtual event also allows you to have a before and after, to prepare your real visit beforehand and to find a booth or a conference a few days later in virtual.
Do you see this virtual enthusiasm on your side?
We can see that organisers are interested in the virtual, and tell us that they plan to go hybrid in the long term, and the venue managers say the same thing. They want to have one or more digital platform solutions in their catalogue of services to have a hybrid format. The challenge for Inod, as a solution supplier, is to manage to interconnect the physical world and all the applications that can run in parallel.
In the event industry, there are often highly developed matchmaking solutions, such as a LinkedIn for an event, and alongside this there are solutions like ours or the Laval Virtual World where there is a virtual world, where you can walk around, meet people, but which includes less of the possibility of having matchmaking and well-prepared BtoB meetings in the same solution. I think that the challenge is to succeed in interconnecting all these solutions that may exist.
Do you have any other virtual projects that you would like to implement in the future?
We have a roadmap for the development of virtual fairs. In the future, we are also betting on virtual showrooms for companies that do international business; here too, demand is growing. The COVID crisis has accelerated the need for this. Today, salespeople cannot travel at all to show their products and do their business. They need a digital tool to present their know-how. This is something that will remain in the future, like virtual fairs, and companies will seek to have these solutions available in the long term. It’s the same principle as the virtual exhibition solution, except that we integrate the client’s products in 3D. We push customisation to 100%.