As events move towards a hybrid future, choosing a hybrid events platform that provides your events team with everything you need to deliver successful in-person and virtual experiences will be a key decision.
Exhibitions present many opportunities for exhibitors and attendees to meet new people and build their network. Sales are often seen as the most important prospect an expo offers, but without being able to interact with possible customers and other businesses, your exhibitors and attendees won’t have the chance to close these sales.
As exhibition organizers, it’s your role to ensure everyone visiting your expo can have a worthwhile experience by making these opportunities to connect easily available. Hosting networking events and activities can encourage your visitors to build connections. It also increases the appeal of attending or exhibiting at your expo if you can offer exclusive networking events.
In this article, we’ll see how you can set up a virtual and hybrid event platform website using WP Event Manager. You can even read our in-depth review here.
Setting Up Your Platform
The Expo Networking addon is designed and created for all those who are looking forward to handling exhibitions, fairs, and networking events virtually on their WordPress website. The functioning of this addon works in close collaboration with certain admin and organizer settings.
You can install the Expo Networking for Organizers addon in 2 different ways:
- Automatic Installation: You can install the plugin from within your WordPress dashboard.
- Manual Installation: You can install the plugin manually using an SFTP or FTP tool.
The addon for organizers requires an Admin Agora account, Firebase account, and an Amazon S3 account – a common account will work for all events.
The following are the settings that an admin has to undertake, irrespective of the number of organizers onboard.
To join Expo powered by Agora, you need to provide an App ID and temp Token. The following shows you how to get the information.
- Create an Agora account:
- If you are not currently registered, head over to Agora Console and signup.
- Create an Agora Project.
- Once you finish the sign-up process, you can create an Agora project on Console.
- Enter the Project Management page.
- Click create.
- Follow the on-screen instructions to enter a project name and check APP ID + APP Certificate + Token (Recommended) as the Authentication Mechanism.
- Click Submit, and you can now see the project on the Project Management page.
Getting the App ID
Agora automatically assigns each project an App ID as a unique identifier.
To copy this App ID, find your project on the Project Management page in Agora Console, and click the eye icon to the right of the App ID.
Getting the App Certificate
When generating a token on your app server, you need to fill in parameters such as the App ID, channel name, user ID, and App Certificate. This section shows you how to get the App Certificate on Console.
- On the Project Management page, click Edit to enter the Edit Project page.
- Scroll down the page to the Security section, and click the eye icon to the right of the Primary certificate.
Generating Agora Customer ID and Secret
Generate a set of Customer ID and Secret for RESTful API access, as follows:
- Log into Agora Console, click the account name on the top right, and click RESTful API from the drop-down list to enter the RESTful page.
- Click Add a secret to generate a set of Customer ID and Secret.
- Go to the Google Firebase Console and sign up
- Create a new project
- You are directed to the Project Dashboard.
- Click on Project settings present on the left side of the page > Service accounts > Firebase Admin SDK. Here click on generate a new private key.
- It will download a JSON file. Open it and copy its entire content, go wp-admin > event manager > settings > expo networking, and paste the content of the JSON file inside the “Firebase service account” text field.
- Next, create a Real-Time Database for your project.
- Click on create Database, present under the three dots.
- Go to Project overview > Build > Realtime Database, and copy the firebase database URL.
- Go to wp-admin > Event Manager > Settings > Expo Networking, and paste the database URL inside “Firebase realtime database URL”.
- Save changes. While you’re on the Firebase Realtime database, switch to rules set .read: false, .write: false. so the database becomes secure.
- You are good to go!
Sign in to the AWS Management Console and open the Amazon S3 console.
In the navigation bar on the upper right, choose your account name or number and then choose My Security Credentials.
Expand the Access keys (access key ID and secret access key) section.
Do one of the following:
- To create an access key, choose Create New Access Key. If you already have two access keys, this button is disabled and you must delete an access key before you can create a new one. When prompted, choose either Show Access Key or Download Key File. This is your only opportunity to save your secret access key. After you’ve saved your secret access key in a secure location, choose Close.
- To deactivate an access key, choose to Make Inactive. When prompted for confirmation, choose Deactivate. A deactivated access key still counts toward your limit of two access keys.
- To activate an access key, choose to Make Active.
- To delete an access key when you no longer need it, copy the access key ID and then choose Delete. Before you can delete the access key, you must choose Deactivate. We recommend that you verify that the access key is no longer in use before you permanently delete it. To confirm the deletion, paste the access key ID in the text input field and then choose Delete.
Choose Create bucket and the Create bucket wizard will open up. Under Bucket name, enter a DNS-compliant name for your bucket.
The bucket name must:
- Be unique across all of Amazon S3.
- Be between 3 and 63 characters long.
- Not contain uppercase characters.
- Start with a lowercase letter or number.
After you create the bucket, you can’t change its name.
Avoid including sensitive information, such as account numbers, in the bucket name. The bucket name is visible in the URLs that point to the objects in the bucket.
In Region, choose the AWS Region where you want the bucket to reside.
Choose a Region close to you to minimize latency and costs and address regulatory requirements. Objects stored in a Region never leave that Region unless you explicitly transfer them to another Region. For a list of Amazon S3 AWS Regions, see AWS service endpoints in the Amazon Web Services General Reference.
Configuring Your Admin Settings
Go to WP-Admin > Event Manager > Settings > Expo and networking.
Add the following details in the settings:
- Media Service Provider: Please select Agora as the media service provider.
- Agora APP ID: You will get this ID when you sign up in Agora.
- Agora APP Certificate: You get the certificate from the Agora App.
- Firebase API Key: You will get this from the Firebase account as instructed above.
- Firebase APP ID: You will get this from the Firebase account as instructed above.
- Firebase Project ID: You will get this from the Firebase account as instructed above.
- Amazon S3 Access Key: Identifies the user who is requesting access to this location. You can get this from Amazon S3 console.
- Amazon S3 Secret Key: Refers to a password that is used to verify the authenticity of the request to access the location because your Access Key is not encrypted. You can get this from Amazon S3 console.
- Amazon S3 region: Refers to the region of the bucket in Amazon. You can get this from Amazon S3 console.
- Bucket: This is like a container for your files and it is used to group and organize objects together. Get this from Amazon S3 console.
- Agora customer ID: Add the customer ID from Agora.
- Agora customer secret: Add the secret key from Agora.
Save your settings.
Creating Your Expo
- Create an Event.
- Go to the Event detail page.
- You will get a Manage exhibition button.
- Click on Manage Exhibition, you will be redirected to the Expo landing page.
Setting up the Reception
Reception is the welcome area of the Expo. The backstage and the main stage forms part of the reception area. The Ongoing live session can be seen here. The backstage is for speakers, hosts, and organizers, and the main stage is for attendees.
Setting up the Backstage
Backstage is an exclusive space where hosts can sync up with speakers before going live. Hosts can help speakers get a quick dry run, test presentations, and check audio and video quality before starting the session. This backstage is only offered to hosts, speakers, and organizers.
Once you’re backstage, you will see the event schedule. There, you can see the description of the host and speaker in multiple sessions.
In the upcoming session, the organizer, host, and speaker will notice the Backstage button and can join the session by clicking on it. Here you can test audio, video to avoid surprises and communicate with the host and the rest of the speakers before going live.
Backstage functionalities offered to organizers, hosts, and speakers:
- Microphone: The organizers, hosts and speakers can choose to mute or unmute themselves when inside the backstage.
- Camera: Everyone inside backstage can choose to show or not show their camera by clicking on the Camera Icon on the backstage control.
- Leave the session: Anyone in backstage can leave by clicking on the red end call button on the control section.
- Settings: This will allow you to choose which microphone and camera to use.
- Start Session: The host or organizer can start a session by clicking on the button. After clicking on the start session, once everything is in order, the host will choose to begin the session. A countdown will indicate that the session is about to begin.
- Idle/Live: Till the session has begun, the Idle sign will be shown in the control bar. After the session has gone live and can be seen on the main stage, a Live sign will be shown on the control bar.
- Screen sharing: The option allows you to share “Your Entire Screen”, “Application window”, or Chrome Tab.
- File-Sharing: The option allows you to share a PDF file while presenting.
- Headcount: A small head with a number on the control bar shows the number of people in the session. This includes the number of attendees, speakers, and hosts together.
- Eye: If you wish to be present backstage but don’t want to show yourself on the main stage, you can click on the eye button. This will hide you from the main stage.
- Feed: This shows the conversation taking place during the session. The host, organizer, the speaker can converse in the feed section.
- Q & A: The question and answer section is for attendees who want to ask any questions to the speakers during the session. The speaker, host, and organizers can answer the question and click on a mark as read. They can also hide questions from the stage.
- Create a Poll: The organizers, hosts, and speakers can build engagement through a poll in the poll section. The organizers also have the facility to close the poll at any point in time.
- Raise Hand: All chats, emojis, and questions posed by the attendees will be visible to you. If an attendee uses the “Raise Hand” feature, the host can moderate and accept or dismiss the request. If accepted, the attendee shares the stage with the speakers for the interaction.
Sharing Your Screen or Files Backstage
- Go to the stage/backstage.
- Select the File icon.
- Choose from the available files on your desktop.
- The file will now be presented.
Selecting the Screen Share Option
- Go to the stage/backstage.
- Select the screen icon.
- Choose what you want to share: “Your Entire Screen”, “Application window”, “Chrome Tab”. Then click on the window in the middle and click on the share button once it turns blue.
- The attendee will now be able to see what you present.
Adding a Session
- To to the Session tab.
- Click on Add session.
- You will be given a form, which the organizer needs to add the details of the sessions.
- Session name: The name of the session, which you want to display to all the participants.
- Session start date: This will contain the date on which the session should be scheduled.
- Session start time: This includes the start time of the session.
- Session end date: This includes the end date of the session.
- Session end time: This includes the end time of the session.
- Speaker: All the speakers created under your speaker account in the speaker submission form are listed in the speaker session. You can select one or many speakers for this session.
- Host: The same speaker list can be used for the host – that person you want to give controls of the backstage to.
- Similarly, the list of other sessions can be listed here. Now the session area will show the complete schedule of the event in a synchronized format.
- The live event will be shown in the session area with a LIVE Tag.
Adding Lounge Tables
The lounge allows participants to network with fellow attendees, speakers, and hosts. This is a virtual table section – participants can move from one table to another, join relevant conversations and meet more individuals. Before and after the event or sessions, the lounge area is active and accessible.
To create tables in the Lounge area, the organizer needs to follow the following steps:
- Click on Add table.
- Fill in the details:
- Table Name: Choose the name of each table.
- Table Logo: Choose a relevant logo for each table.
- Total Seat: You can choose from 2 to 8 seats on one table.
- The table is now created. You can create as many tables as you like.
- The attendees can then network in this lounge.
Adding Exhibitors to the Expo Booth
Admins need to first establish the exhibitors’ category settings in the backend.
- Go To Wp Admin > Exhibitors > Categories.
- Add New Exhibitor categories from here, including the name of the category, slug, description, etc.
- Click on Add New Exhibitor Category.
- Go to Admin > Exhibitors > Add New.
- Add the Exhibitor details.
- Set the exhibitor Logo.
- All the exhibitors can be viewed and deleted by going to Admin > Exhibitor > All Exhibitors.
Adding Exhibitors to the Event From the Front End
- The organizers can add exhibitors from the Expo booth section.
- Click on Add exhibitor.
- A form will display asking for the below information:
- Exhibitor Title
- Exhibitor Description
- Exhibitor Logo
- Exhibitor Banner
- Exhibitor Category
- Exhibitor Facebook
- Exhibitor Twitter
- Exhibitor Instagram
- After adding all the details, the organizer needs to click on Add exhibitor on the form.
- The exhibitors are then added to the Expo.
When a person wants to attend an expo related to an event, the first thing he/she needs to do is to register for an event. They can do this by doing the following:
- Go to the event detail page.
- Click on the Register button, if there are no tickets associated with the event.
- If there is any ticket for an expo, buy the ticket and register for an event.
- Once your registration is confirmed, you will receive an email for confirmation.
Entering the Exhibition
- After the registration is confirmed, the user gets a “Join Exhibition” link on the event details page.
- Once you are registered for an event, you will enter an exhibition.
- Users will find the link to join the exhibition on a detail page.
- The participant needs to click on this button and further enter the exhibition room.
Sections in the Exhibition
Now that the user has been entered into the expo, the participants can witness 4 different sections in the Expo section.
Reception: This area shows the live session happening at the event. The reception area for Users is the main stage where all the major events are taking place.
Sessions: This section of the expo displays the schedule of the Event or Exhibition. The date, time, speakers, and the duration of the event are displayed here.
Lounge: The lounge section is for Networking where the participants and exhibitors, speakers, everyone in the event, can interact with each other.
Expo booth: Every exhibitor has its area, where people can interact with exhibitors directly and individually.
Overall Engagement in the Exhibition
Session Interaction on the Main Stage
Raise Hand: Users can choose to interact with the speaker and the host by selecting the “Raise hand” button in the stage’s bottom control bar. If the host accepts, they will share the stage with the speaker and be visible to all attendees.
React with Emojis: Emojis allow Users to react quickly and offer motivation or applause to the speaker.
Feed: The feed displays all the conversations happening on the main stage between different attendees and speakers.
Q & A: The attendees can either answer the question being asked in the Q & A section or if encountered a query can ask their question, which will be answered by the speakers. Also, there is an option to upvote with an up arrow, allowing attendees to upvote if they have the same query, and not write it again.
Polls: Participate in the “Polls” section to express their opinions towards the question/poll created by the Host.
Global Interaction in the Expo
Feed: The Feed displays the list of all the interactions and messages taking place between the participants present in the event. A user can add any message, question that he wants to ask with people in the events.
Interaction with individual attendee: If a user wants to interact with an individual attendee, they can search for that particular attendee in the attendee section and have a conversation.
Direct Message: The message section displays the direct messages sent to users from around the participants present in the Event.
Alerts: The Alert section displays the list of alerts and ongoing announcements during the Exhibition.
Interactions in the Lounge
The Lounge is active before a live session, during session breaks, and after the live session ends.
Join tables: Tables may have logos on top of it to signal and inform participants about the conversations happening in specific tables. Once users decide which table they’d like to be seated at, they can select the “Join Table” button below the table. If they want to leave the conversation, they can click on the “Leave the table” button in the bottom right.
View profiles: Attendees can click on the display picture of any participant to view their participant profiles.
Interactions in the Expo Booth
The Expo booth displays all the exhibitors present in the Exhibition. The participants can interact with exhibitors in the booth section.
Join tables: The Exhibitors have certain tables in their booth section, which visitors can utilize to communicate with them directly. Once the users decide which table they’d like to be seated at, they can select the “Join Table” button below the table. If they want to leave the conversation, they can click on the “Leave the table” button in the bottom right.
Video call: Users can interact with the other members seated at the table in a virtual video call format as well.
View Broadcast: Users can also check the Broadcast conducted by the exhibitors at their booth.
If you’re interested, I recommend playing around with the virtual event demo or the virtual expo demo so that you get a good feel for what the platform is like on the front end and back end.
Then, if you’re ready to get started, you can click the buttons below: