Virtual Trade Show
There is no playbook for engaging a global audience as the world navigates this “new normal” brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. What many people have been doing is to figure things out as they go – working from home and doing the best they can to keep their businesses going.
Fortunately, virtual events (such as companywide meetings) are not entirely new. That same technology has made it possible for any exhibitor to excite and inform their audience by hosting a virtual trade show.
Here are the essential things to know about attending a virtual trade show and making the most out of it.
How Does a Virtual Trade Show Work?
A virtual trade show is an exhibition event hosted in an online environment. Like the real-life version or trade shows, the show makes it easy for exhibitors to connect directly with virtual attendees. But the virtual model has the added advantage of broader reach.
In other words, it is not limited to a particular physical location. Virtual attendees can access the event from anywhere on the face of the planet. All it takes to attend the show is an internet-enabled device.
The virtual event gives people access to interactive features, such as webcasts, live webinars, live chats with company reps, one-on-one or group video calls, question and answer sessions, chat rooms, and even game opportunities, including lucky draws.
Visitors at the event will typically register online to generate online badges, allowing them to access virtual booths and virtual exhibit halls. The virtual event center is built in a similar fashion to the real-world version (including displays, desks, etc.) to make it easy for users to access the show’s different sections.
Exhibitors upload their content, tailoring it to appeal to their targeted online audience. Of course, the goal is not merely to display fanciful graphics and animations but to make profits from the virtual trade show. Even if people do not come together physically, they can still see products and services and make purchases online. Exhibitors can attract investors and also generate quality leads that can be converted to sales.
How to Stand Out at a Virtual Trade Show
Long before the event opens, brand yourself by piquing the interest of attendees. Seize every opportunity to promote your logo on the organizer’s website.
Consider sponsoring a page, an agenda, or anything that will get your brand name in front of as many potential attendees as possible.
It is also crucial to know your audience before the event starts. Find out the other vendors, presenters, and the event content. This will help you adapt your content on the virtual platform to your target audience.
During the Virtual Event
Give attendees value by putting together an educational session that showcases what you know about your industry. This is a better use of their time than staging sales pitches. Ensure people leave the session with a few concrete learning takeaways that make them think of you as an industry expert.
By showcasing your knowledge and team of experts, you are a step away from getting attendees to come to your booth.
If a visitor enters your virtual booth, take that as a surefire sign that something has caught their attention or you have made a good impression on them. But this chance will likely be gone in a flash if you don’t engage them immediately.
Interact with them using open-ended questions aimed at helping you know what they really need. Asking the right questions helps you figure out if they qualify as leads or not.
The usual practice after the virtual event is to simply add all leads to your marketing database and bombard them with generic content. But that will be doing the same thing as every other company.
Instead of toeing this worn-out path, reach out to leads with helpful and interesting content. Ask them if you can send useful industry-specific content. Ask if they will be interested in content relating to the event. A thoughtful follow-up will help you provide value to lead and help keep the conversation going. Following up with attendees this way will set you apart from others.
Lastly, just because you didn’t meet in-person doesn’t mean you can’t gift branded freebies. Consider sending out branded giveaways to your leads using their mailing addresses (not emails, of course).
Tips for a Successful Virtual Trade Show
1. Spend Good Money on Your Virtual Booth
Bland booth designs don’t attract visitors both in real-world and virtual shows. In physical environments, even the dullest booth have reps that may smile at people as they walk past, and that could be a form of an invitation to take a look at what’s happening there. After all, you shouldn’t just a book by its cover.
But that’s not the case with virtual booths. There are no reps present to encourage visitors to take a quick peek at what your business is all about. If your virtual booth is not attractive enough to hold people’s attention, it will not attract visitors.
Don’t be afraid to spend good money and invest in advanced features such as GIFs and HTML5 banners. Make sure that the materials available for download are carefully selected to meet your brand’s standard.
Consider maintaining a look and feel consistent with your overall brand, so when visitors go from your virtual booth to downloadable content or your website using your link, they will have a sense of interacting with the same exhibitor.
2. Give Visitors Unique Experiences
Visitors will spend more time at your virtual booth and want to return for more if they have reasons to. Thankfully, you can give them plenty of reasons.
Come up with creative ideas tailored to your audience and put them up as scheduled events at your booth. Here are a few ideas you can run with:
- Theme-based meetings (make this as casual as possible)
- Product demos (offering visitors a chance to try your products themselves)
- Guest-speaker hosted sessions (the more recognized the guest-speaker is, the better the turnout)
- Happy hours (include a variety of freebies)
3. Promote Your Booth Activities
People will not likely flock to your booth if they don’t know about your activities, no matter how interesting or captivating they are. Don’t let your investment go to waste. Take advantage of opportunities to advertise on the organizer’s platform and promote your booth and all its exciting activities.
Consider using social media channels to post your virtual show booth events, too. This will expand your reach and get more traffic to your booth.
4. Carefully Hand-Pick Your Reps
When staffing your virtual trade show booth, consider choosing reps with the following qualities:
- Excellent relationship-building skills
- In-depth knowledge of your product or service
- Outgoing and personable qualities
These are the essential skills any rep should possess, whether in a virtual or real-world trade show. However, you need to look for more qualities in potential reps for your online event. These include:
- Strong knowledge of the digital space (the ability to navigate online platforms flawlessly)
- Strong digital communication skills (the ability to confidently express themselves during video chats and to clearly communicate in emails and messages)
If you ignore these last two qualities, it will be difficult for your reps to attract and hold the attention of visitors.
5. Provide Reps with Pre-Crafted Attention-Grabbing Messages
It is essential to work with your team and come up with prepared messages for your reps that will capture the attention of visitors and get them to engage. Your brand message should be clutter-free, short, and snappy yet powerful enough to prompt people to read.
Here’s something “cool” you can do to improve participants’ chances of responding to messages from your reps. Create incentives that will encourage people to respond. For example, you could gamify interactions and even include prizes for winners. You could offer opportunities for participants to win giveaways as a way to motivate them to engage with you.
Another thing you can do is to share facts and statistics unique to your company. Participants usually want to hear from real people like them, so sharing zingers and testimonials are great ways to get them to respond to your rep’s messages.
Seize the opportunity to access attendees’ profiles and create a persona for them. This can help you prepare customized messages that suit each persona. Doing this will give you better results than using generic pleasantries, especially since too many other exhibitors and brands use the same greetings.
6. Glean Feedback After the Show
A virtual trade show may end for attendees and reps when the organizers declare it is officially over. But that’s not the end of the show for a sponsor, and it is definitely not even near the end for an exhibitor.
The show’s official closing date marks the beginning of preparations for the next show for the serious-minded exhibitor, and a post-con meeting is in order. Immediately after the show, you should consider holding a virtual conference with your team to gather feedback on what went well and what went south.
You also want to find out what they saw in other impressive booths and the recurring comments (good or bad) from prospects during virtual chats. All of these will go into how you refine your next virtual trade show.