What You Need to Know About Virtual Trade Shows

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Posted on February 5, 2024

What You Need to Know About Virtual Trade Shows

Trade shows can be an essential part of your marketing plan. It offers you an opportunity to showcase your products and also to network with potential customers and other businesses. In fact, the B2B trade show market value is around $10.17 billion, showing that such shows are more than an excuse to meet in the bar. 

Of course, trade shows have one major drawback: their geographical limitations. If you’re not relatively close to the location, you either lose out or incur major travel and accommodation expenses. That’s where virtual trade shows come into play. With an estimated global market value of $65.34 billion in 2022, virtual trade shows are no novelty and can offer a real opportunity to market your brand. 

What Are Virtual Trade Shows?

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Trade shows can be essential fixtures in many organizations’ calendars. These events are often used to launch new products, especially when the trade show is one of the major ones. However, businesses are not always able to attend, and this can be true both for national shows and international ones. Then you have scenarios like the recent pandemic where no one could attend. 

Virtual trade shows are a solution that allows anyone to attend, no matter where they are located. In essence, they are replicas of physical trade shows but they take place entirely in an online environment. They can be open to the public, though some may be based on invitations. For example, if you were presenting omnichannel contact center software, you may get involved in a show that is only open to people in the contact center industry.   

You still find most, if not all, of the features you would at a physical trade show. Businesses can still have ‘stalls’ which people can visit. There can be webinars with Q&A sessions or discussion forums, and there can be special events – such as a product launch – as part of the show as a whole.  

Benefits of Virtual Trade Shows

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The main benefit is an obvious one. Anyone can attend a virtual trade show no matter where they are located in the world. For example, if someone in Europe was interested in AI that can transcribe audio software, they could attend a virtual trade show focusing on AI solutions. This benefits them in that they can look at products without having to travel to a show, and it benefits the company as they extend the reach of their products into new markets.  

Virtual trade shows are gaining popularity, and some of the more successful ones incorporate the best virtual assistant technology to enhance the attendee experience. This technology allows attendees to navigate the event seamlessly and access information more efficiently.

A second benefit can be the cost savings offered by virtual trade shows. Any business involved in the show can save on the cost of hiring a stand or stall as well as producing sometimes massive amounts of promotional material. For attendees, there are no travel or accommodation expenses, and there are usually no registration costs. 

Something else to consider is attendance numbers. A physical trade show will always have attendance limits imposed by the venue size. Virtual trade shows can – theoretically – have limitless numbers. Event organizers may choose to put some limits on sessions and webinars depending on the communication platforms or meeting tools being used. 

One final benefit to consider is frequency. Organizing a physical trade show comes with high costs, as mentioned. That means holding more than one – or two – per year is likely impossible due to those prohibitive costs. With virtual trade shows, you could hold several digital events every year, which will extend reach and event engagement.  

What Features Can You Have in Virtual Trade Shows?

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With some adaptations, you can replicate most features you find at a physical trade show. Of course, you are going to be relying on technology a lot, and the interactive tools you use will dictate what features you have as well as how good they are.

  1. Entrance Hall 

With a physical show, the entrance hall can fill a lot of roles. It’s where people usually register for the show itself, and any events and it can also serve as an information point. Virtual trade shows are no different and, depending on the platform you utilize, it can act as the hub for everything you have planned. You can create a standalone event website that offers a portal to all your potential visitors. 

Your virtual lobby should be welcoming and should clearly display the different options available at the show, such as webinars, discussion rooms, and virtual stalls. If the virtual show is for one brand, then that brand should be displayed as much as possible. Your main focus should be on replicating the real-life experience.

  1. Stalls

The main purpose of any trade show, whether physical or virtual, is to promote brands and products. With virtual environments, you have the opportunity to add layers to any product presentation. You can have each stall offering a range of information, from technical aspects of any product to demonstration videos. 

The setup of stalls can depend on the format of the trade show. If it’s a show presented by one company, then you may decide to feature different products on different virtual stalls so visitors can find what they want easily. For example, if your show was focusing on communication in all its forms, you could have a stall that promotes the use of area code 747 numbers. 

  1. Special Events 

If you’ve ever attended a trade show in real life, then you know that there is usually a series of special events. These can range from launching a new product to seminars and discussions that focus on products or developments within the industry. If anything, virtual trade shows offer you more scope to have these types of events. 

With video platforms and streaming technology, you can present any sort of event to a potentially larger audience than at a physical show. Whether a product launch with bells and whistles or having a leading industry expert present a discussion panel, the only real limitation is imposed by the technology you are utilizing. 

  1. Networking 

One of the main features of any trade show is the opportunity to network. It allows you to meet potential customers or suppliers, or even to meet people within your industry who can present future chances to partner on projects. How do you offer those same networking opportunities at a virtual trade show?

There are several ways you can achieve this. One obvious solution is to offer several levels of chat rooms. You can have public ones that are sorted by different subjects, such as ‘the advantages of using a Saudi domain name’. You can also provide private chat rooms for people who want to discuss things away from prying eyes (or ears). Another option is to create a virtual lounge where people can meet for the first time. 

  1. Meetings 

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Another feature of physical trade shows you want to emulate is meetings. Many of these meetings may be a knock-on effect from the networking opportunities on offer and some may be pre-arranged. In virtual trade shows, this is another area that will depend on the technology you are using. 

To elevate your interactive experience, you want the best streaming and video conferencing tech you can afford. One thing to remember with virtual events is that any tech you use is only as good as the internet signal you have, so make sure that you investigate your capabilities in advance so that there are no problems during the show itself. 

Make Your Virtual Trade Show a Success

Technology aside, making your virtual show a success is no different from making an in-person show successful. There are a few things you should always consider. 

  • Promotion. You want good attendance at your virtual shows and that means promoting it as much as possible. As well as on your own website and social media platforms, you should be sharing the event in industry-specific groups or on dedicated platforms such as LinkedIn. How well you market your event can affect how successful it is.  
  • Branding. One of the goals of any type of trade show is to raise brand awareness. With virtual trade shows, don’t be shy when it comes to branding. Use virtual banners wherever you can so that people get to know your brand better. You can also brand any content you will be using during the show.
  • Resources. Provide plenty of resources for visitors to access. This can include informative videos or information packs. Making a lot of information downloadable is also advisable so that visitors can fully digest it later. 
  • Marketing.  The marketing involved with a virtual trade show extends beyond the actual promotion of the event. It is a great chance to collect visitor information and add them to your email marketing list. 
  • On demand. Because your content is streamed, you should be considering making some of it available on demand. This means that visitors can access it both during and after the event. In some cases, you may want to make some or all of that on-demand content time-limited. 

The Takeaway 

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Virtual trade shows offer a host of advantages over in-person shows. Your potential audience is global rather than local or regional. This means that the reach and awareness of your brand are multiplied many times. With more visitors at your show – or a show you participate in – you can see tangible effects when it comes to engagement and sales. 

The one thing to note is that how good your virtual event is will depend on how good the technology you use is. You need to be able to stream different aspects of the event as well as offer facilities, such as video chat. If you do it right, you will find that a virtual trade show can boost several of your metrics. 

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