A global pandemic and nationwide stay-at-home orders have forced businesses of all sorts to get creative!
Without the ability to host and attend live events or hands-on trade shows, technology and the digital realm have come to the rescue!
Event organizers have been forced to make some very dramatic shifts and transition their plans from a physical event to a virtual event, and luckily, trade shows are perfect candidates for a digital platform.
But how exactly do you create a virtual trade show?
Below you will find a number of steps to follow that will help you host the most successful virtual trade show possible!
Choose Goals for Your Virtual Trade Show
As a show organizer, one of your primary objectives should be to establish the goals and objectives for your virtual trade show.
Will the show center around launching new products or services? Is it thought leadership? Lead generation? Knowing this will help you define your target audience and find the right group of exhibitors.
Understanding and defining specific benchmarks for success can help you produce the best event possible but also allow you a more thorough analysis of what did and did not work after the fact.
How can you know if your event was a success if you don’t know, in this instance, what success actually means?
Consider things like the number of registrations you hope to receive (based on your past events or similar trade shows), the number of exhibitors you plan to host, branding, sponsorship, leads, conversions, and overall attendee and exhibitor satisfaction (which can be measured using a post-event survey).
Create Valuable Content
Once you have defined your objectives, you can begin to build content that will help you meet those objectives.
Start reaching out to vendors, exhibitors, and presenters that will provide value to your attendees and help you reach your objectives.
Individual exhibitors will run their virtual booth in the way that best promotes their products and services but you can do a lot to complement their efforts.
Consider adding keynote speeches, a live webinar, Q&As, networking sessions, or some sort of virtual conferencing element.
The more you can do to highlight your presenters and vendors, the more you will distinguish your virtual expo from the competition, and the more you will improve the attendee experience.
Find the Right Virtual Trade Show Platform
One of the keys to success in a virtual reality is the use of a virtual events platform. There are lots of platforms available but not all of them are well suited to virtual trade shows.
Look for a platform that offers:
- Virtual Exhibitor Booths: A trade show booth is an obvious must-have. The right platform, like Accelevents, will give exhibitors and sponsors the ability to fully brand their booth with logos, messaging, and digital handouts.
- Chat Features: One of the biggest benefits to participants in a traditional trade show is face-to-face access to interest leads. This benefit can be transferred to an online environment with proper chat features. Live chat allows attendees and exhibitors to connect in real-time, exchange additional information, ask/answer questions, and develop deeper brand connections.
- Live Streaming: A platform that offers live video streaming will help you engage a larger audience. It also enables additional marketing possibilities, greater lead capturing for exhibitors, and more valuable content for attendees.
- Additional Sessions: Without a physical exhibition hall where attendees can meet and discuss the trade show, it might be a good idea to offer additional networking opportunities. By adding breakout sessions or virtual meeting rooms, you give all participants a way to connect that is more meaningful and useful than just visiting a virtual booth.
Promote Your Event
All the work you put into organizing your trade show will be for nothing if you do not promote and market your event properly.
Be sure to:
- Build a website: Designing an event website will give you an online foundation. It will help you to develop your event brand and provide program details to your registered guests and any potential attendees. It is a place to include profiles of your exhibitors, sponsor details, and relevant content like blog posts and videos. It is also a place to sell tickets and registrations.
- Use Social Media: Create social media profiles for your event brand. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are all great places to start. These channels can help you generate a buzz for your virtual trade show and capture an audience you may have otherwise been unable to reach. It is also a place to share your website content, highlight exhibitors and sponsors, and share any live video streams that you wish to make public. And, make it easy for people to share their plans to attend your exhibition from your event registration page or platform.
- Email Marketing: In 2023, there is expected to be 4.3 billion email users worldwide. In many ways, event email marketing will give you the best access to your target audience. Be sure to send event invitations, event reminders, and follow-up emails to say thank you after the event is completed.
- Use Traditional Media: Just because your event is moving online doesn’t mean all your marketing has to move as well. Share your event in industry publications, traditional print media, and radio spots in select markets. Push all those ads to your website for more information.
Think of Attendee Experience
A great deal of your effort should go into creating a valuable and seamless experience for your exhibitors and your attendees. Every step of the planning process, keep these people in mind.
You should assemble a team to help out, just as you would for a live event. Have people on hand that will monitor chat rooms for any potential trouble. It is also a good idea to have people on hand with some technical knowledge. This tech support team can be available to troubleshoot any glitches that may arise during the course of your trade show. Even if your platform offers 24/7 support, you will want to have your own people in place to respond right away. Before the event, share your tech support contact information and during the event, display it clearly so people do not have to search for it.
Record a video that will play when attendees log on. This will welcome them to the expo and provide them with a little bit of guidance about what comes next. For people who have never attended a virtual event, this could give them an added sense of comfort.
Include interactive elements like polls, games, and virtual cocktail hours. Make the event every bit as enjoyable as it would be in person!
You may want to consider including exclusive content that can only be accessed by certain ticket tiers. A VIP lounge, for example, will give this class of ticket holder access to exclusive demos, chats, and presentations from your leading presenters.
Trade shows are a great way to bring various business leaders and innovators together with their audience in a meaningful way. And in many ways, a virtual trade show provides even greater opportunities to all of those involved. The costs to host a virtual expo or trade show are significantly less than an in-person event and can provide a greater return on all investments, for your company, the exhibitors, and the attendees.
To create a successful virtual trade show, think carefully about the needs of your vendors and your audience then follow the steps laid out above. With focus and dedication, you can exceed all objectives and expectations!
Think big, and when you are ready to get started, reach out to Accelevents to learn how we can help you create, promote, and manage your virtual trade show.