How To Make the Most Of Virtual Trade Shows

4 min read · 11 months ago


Virtual trade shows were a new addition to how we did business in 2020. In 2021, they remain a regular occurrence. If your business depends on these industry-focused events, try these strategies to make the most of virtual trade shows.

Virtual trade shows take different forms. For example, depending on the trade association’s budget and web design savvy, the trade show might be offered in a dynamic 3D environment. Other options include a calendar of online meetings, panels, and even social gatherings using a collaborative meeting platform such as Zoom or GoToMeeting. In addition, the informational and educational webinars might be live or pre-recorded.

The advantages of virtual trade shows are obvious. This approach supports social distancing, reduces costs, maximizes worldwide reach, and makes it easier to measure results. Plus, attending a virtual trade show is environmentally friendly as there is less waste since carbon emissions from getting to the actual event are cut.


Nevertheless, there are drawbacks too. Trade shows are a valuable opportunity for exhibitors and attendees to make connections, learn the latest, and gain industry insights. However, that’s more challenging to do well in an online environment. This article will detail some suggestions on how to make the most of online trade shows:

  • Have a game plan
  • Make your contribution memorable
  • Personalize your outreach
  • Actively participate in show events
  • Try gamification to improve engagement
  • Amplify your participation


Have a Game Plan

Getting the most out of a trade show is challenging in real life too. There are so many things to do, panels you want to attend, people to meet, vendors to see. Plus, you really need to sleep a few hours also. Whether it is live or virtual, you will get more out of your time at a trade show if you set objectives.

Identify two to three things you’d like to accomplish at the trade show. Perhaps this is a skill set you want to develop, an area of your industry you want to know more about, a particular problem you want to solve, or a networking goal. Having these focal points can help you decide what sessions to attend and which people you want to make appointments to meet.


Make Your Contribution Memorable

If you are presenting at the trade show or hosting an online panel, use a variety of media to make your contribution more engaging. Keep in mind that you’re competing with the four other panels scheduled in your time slot and the many other things that individuals could be doing in their work-from-home environment. 

Make sure you rehearse and edit your speaker scripts to keep the pace up. Your audience has little to look at during an online presentation. So, it can help to have less text on slides and switch them more often. The movement of the slides will help give the presentation momentum. Adding in videos and gifs can be helpful too. 

Be sure to include polling questions and leave time for a live Q&A. Also, enable audience chat during your session to help people interact with you and other attendees.


Personalize Your Outreach

An advantage of virtual events is that you can quickly gather information about participants. Make it easy for people to ask for more details. They are likely raising their hand to prequalify themselves as interested leads. It’s more effective than business cards dropped into the fishbowl for a raffle.

Once you have the contacts’ information, customize your outreach to them. Follow up with relevant content such as relevant links, digital brochures, or videos that address the individual’s role in their industry.

Trade shows are also a time for face-to-face meetings. Replace that with a schedule of online appointments. Make it easy for interested virtual trade show attendees to set up a time to meet in a one-on-one breakout session on your meeting platform.


Actively Participate in Show Events

Networking opportunities are one of the biggest draws for a trade show. Yet, it’s difficult to run into someone on the trade show floor. Or to find yourself talking to a potential new business contact over cocktail hot dogs. For a better virtual trade show experience, actively participate. This means:

  • Contributing to audience chat during events
  • Asking questions during the Q&A of webinar sessions
  • Speaking up in breakout rooms

 You’ve been honing your elevator pitch for your business since day one. Make sure you’ve rehearsed and are ready to give a quick overview of your business value proposition without hesitation. Attend any virtual networking events and get your business brand out there.


Try Gamification To Improve Engagement

If your business asks several employees to join a virtual trade show, add a gamification element to encourage their engagement. For example, you might award points for sessions attended to learn new skills. Or create a leaderboard among employees who see more engagement with their trade show-related social posts. Another idea is to offer an incentive for the best personal profile on the virtual event’s platform for attendees.

Some “81% of trade show attendees have buying authority.” Leverage this. Reward your employees who come up with creative incentives to get their contacts and prospects involved with your virtual trade booth.


Amplify Your Participation

If you’re speaking at a trade show, you might email your contacts and invite them to attend. Your business might post a heads-up on its social media and post on the business website. But, you only get traction with those who are live on site. With a virtual trade event, you can turn your speaking engagement into an opportunity to reach many more prospects.

Use your business website and digital channels to promote your presence at the virtual trade show. Let buyers, prospects, and others in your industry know about your presentation and invite them to join you. Provide the relevant link. If you record the session, use excerpts on social media, create videos, or make the webinar available as an on-demand session for those who missed it. 

The Real Impact of Virtual Trade Shows

Virtual trade shows aren’t going away. In a 2020 Bizzabo survey, 93% of event marketers planned to continue investing in virtual events. Maybe that’s because 80% of virtual event organizers said they reached a wider audience with virtual events. Whatever the reason, your business will need to continue to engage in virtual trade shows to keep up with the competition. These strategies for making the most of the online trade show experience can help.