If COVID-19 has forced you to move your physical event to an online environment, you are not alone.
Initially, this shift may feel overwhelmingly complicated but the reality is, virtual events offer a great number of benefits that a traditional event cannot provide. This does not mean, however, that there are not a number of practical questions associated with online events.
Sure, you know how to sell exhibitor booths at your conference or trade show but how do you sell virtual exhibitor booths?
To make things easier, we’ve put together some suggestions that will help you sell exhibitor booths for your online event.
Properly Research Exhibitors
Before you can try to sell exhibitor booths you need to know who to approach.
Understanding the industry and uniqueness of each business you approach will help you attract their attention, speak directly to their interests, and sell them on your virtual conference or virtual trade show.
Create a brochure or package for anyone you approach so that they will fully understand your event and its aims. Be sure to highlight the general benefits to all vendors and exhibitors and address the specific benefits to each business in a personalized cover letter.
The extra level of attention and care can really sway opinions and help individuals see the value of holding an expo at your event.
Understand Your Typical Attendee
Exhibitors don’t want to attend your event so they can stand there and people watch. The same will be true of your virtual event.
If you know and understand your attendees, you can deliver this information as an incentive to potential exhibitors. Explain your audience demographics, their typical online behaviors, and any sales information you already have.
For example, if your conference or trade show attendees comprise a qualified audience for your vendors AND your event registration is 75% sold out, nabbing a booth space becomes a far more appealing prospect.
The more information you can offer about your audience, the more opportunity a company is likely to see. In many ways, a virtual event can increase the value of these audience characteristics. Attendees can interact with vendors in real-time and explore more about the product or service. These things may not be possible when standing 3 people deep in a crowd in front of a traditional trade show booth. Online chat and interaction can create a more meaningful connection. It will be easier and more natural for attendees to offer up an email address or contact information that the vendor can act on immediately.
Virtual exhibitor benefits are plentiful.
Obviously, you will want to list the clear benefits first:
- Booth branding opportunities
- Live chat options
- Custom branded digital handouts
- Qualified audience
But some benefits are less obvious but no less valuable. For example, virtual events:
- Draw a larger audience—Because the event is not restricted to an exhibit hall or convention center in a specific location, there is the potential to draw from a global audience. For many, this will mean getting their product or service in front of people they would otherwise be unable to reach.
- Provide more data—often at a physical event, exhibitors receive an attendance report. But with a virtual event, you can get analytics on every visitor’s behavior. Exhibitors can collect hard numbers on which attendees interacted with a particular asset allowing them to tailor future offerings to better suit their qualified audience. It provides a more in-depth look into what their target audience is looking for.
- Offer a better ROI—virtual events give exhibitors a much better return on their investment. They do not have to cover travel expenses or spend money printing handouts and other promotional materials. They only expense they face is the cost of securing a booth.
Being able to clearly articulate why someone should want to participate in your exhibition will help them see the opportunities for themselves.
No one says your virtual event needs to be simply an exhibit space full of virtual booths and nothing more. Make your event fun and interactive.
The more you can do to promote attendee engagement, the more attendees will interact with your exhibitors and with each other.
Schedule networking sessions, a virtual cocktail hour, exclusive virtual meet and greets with vendors, keynote speakers, webinars, demonstrations, and fireside chats. Post exhibitor listings on your event website, on your social media channels, and in your event email marketing materials. This will get vendor names out there while allowing attendees to explore their options and better plan their event experience.
Attendees may not be showing up in person but you might want to consider offering a registration package or gift bag like you would in a traditional setting. Ask exhibitors to provide exclusive discount codes or small items that can be easily mailed to attendees.
These little extras will help build better relationships between exhibitors and attendees while helping exhibitors increase brand awareness and stay front of mind with visitors.
Be clear and upfront with vendors about what is included in exhibitor registration.
Consider establishing registration tiers that will, for a higher fee, allow exhibitors to participate in additional sessions, or have greater access to the audience of potential customers.
Let potential exhibitors know what materials they should prepare and if they are worried about the online format, explain that you will have tech support available to them should anything go wrong.
Remember, as an organizer, you want to facilitate these connections and create a positive experience for everyone.
Selling virtual exhibitor booths for your online event is easier than you think. Businesses spend copious amounts of money each year to get their product or service in front of interested and qualified buyers. Your virtual conference, exhibition, or trade show does a large part of that work for them! If you think your way through it and take the above advice, you should have no problem selling out your booth spaces!