Twice in the last two weeks (which is not exactly a full on trend but…) I have had people say something related to the amount of unwanted emails they are getting after they attend a virtual event. I have to admit, I think there is a certain understanding that if you attend an event for free or you register and don’t opt out of follow up emails from the show or the exhibitors, you should expect to be contacted. Same might even go if you visited a booth and downloaded some materials…I can understand a follow-up contact. But there seems to be a trend that is developing that could sour people on virtual events.
Lately, I have noticed or maybe noted the amount of email I get after attending an online event so after I had heard this concern twice from others, I started to pay closer attention to the registration process for the events that I attend and asked others in our organization to as well. While most registration forms give you the options to opt out of follow up emails from the exhibitors as well as the event producer, I wondering how these are being policed. On two occasions this week I registered for events and made sure to opt out of the various follow up options and guess what? I’m still getting emails from exhibitors (some of whom I never even visited there booth—maybe I picked up some literature in the resource center) and the trend (judging from shows I’ve attended in the past) seems to get one from them every other week or so.
I’m not concerned about the contacts myself, and as some of you noted before last Virtual Edge Summit, you received a healthy number of emails from me (but that is a topic for my next blog). My concern is how we control this so that the industry doesn’t start turning people off from attending. It may not be a problem now but imagine how it will be 6 months or a year from now when there are X-times as many virtual events being produced. If an attendee goes to 6 events in a year with an average of 15 exhibitors that could result in another 150 to 200 emails a month—that’s going to wear on people’s nerves.
Now you get into an interesting area here. Who owns the data? Who owns the relationship with attendee? Well most of the contracts that I have seen say it isn’t the virtual event platform vendor; it’s the event producer who owns the data. That makes sense but how do you police the producers that can do whatever they want with their attendee’s data? In the long run, I think people will avoid that event in the future if they are being solicited non-stop by the event or its exhibitors but I think we need to think about developing a “code of conduct” for the industry that spells out what is acceptable and what isn’t. In the meantime, platform vendors should make a point to remind producers of the long-term hazards of providing contacts to exhibitors without reminding them that they haven’t opted-in necessarily. They might need to be further qualified before the exhibitors begin their drip marketing campaigns in earnest.