Before COVID-19 altered the business exhibition and trade show landscape, what were previously venue-centric events, where people could freely interact in person and shake each others’ hands, are now being operated online with greater frequency than we might be used to.
Because we’ve lost out on face-to-face interaction, current conditions have made connecting and engaging with potential customers and partners tougher than ever. Nevertheless, there is still a demand for virtual trade shows, as businesses and sponsors try to navigate these choppy and challenging waters.
So, in light of these temporary arrangements, how can we achieve a similar experience both for those hosting online events and those attending them? Here, we’ll take a look at the things you can do to prepare and then deliver a virtual trade show to make things a success during these restricted times.
What is a virtual trade show?
Before we begin getting the most from your online events, it’s worth defining what a virtual trade show entails if you’re unfamiliar.
Essentially, a virtual trade show resembles a physical show, except everything is powered by a dynamic 3D environment, supported by tools that engage a global audience attending from the comfort of their own home. Attendees can connect and interact with your virtual trade show booths, which are mini websites built within a larger online event framework.
Getting the most out of your online event
Before the event
Define the focus of your trade show
As with a physical show, the planning of your virtual trade show needs to have a strategy. What areas might your audience be interested in? And how do these areas relate to your business goals?
Once you know the general focus of your show, you can formulate the content ideas that will help support the concept and allow you to connect with internal parties and partners that you want to attend your event.
Brand yourself early
Before the event, building up audience intrigue and excitement is always a good idea. Unlike a physical trade show, where wandering attendees may be drawn to your booth because of its visual aspects, you’ll have to put the work in from a brand perspective in order to get them clicking through to your virtual booth.
Look into any opportunities to promote yourself and your brand’s logo on the event website. Talk to your event host about how you can get involved; you want your name and brand in front of as many people as you can before the event begins.
If you can, why not sponsor a page within the event itself? Take a look at the agenda and consider when and where you’d like attendees to come across your brand. There are many different ways you can drum interest beforehand.
Know your audience
Researching your attendees prior to the event can pay off nicely. Take a look at the event content, who’ll be presenting, and the other vendors to better understand the demographics of your audience.
By gleaning insights about attendees, you’re in a better position to tailor your content to your audience, influencing the way you approach individual conversations as well as your virtual booth itself. If your event platform allows it, you can even message or schedule meetings with prospects during the event, compensating for the loss of in-person interaction of a physical trade show.
Make the user experience cohesive
At typical trade shows, guests are guided by way of schedules, signage and on-site staff to answer any questions they might have. Since things aren’t quite the same virtually, you should still keep the idea of guidance in mind when planning.
Once attendees find your virtual webpage, accessing resources and other points of interest is imperative. From attending breakout sessions to viewing product demonstrations, everything should be clear and concise, with appropriate calls to action to point them in the right direction.
Be sure to align this messaging with your business’ values and brand identity, too.
During the event
Give the audience a chance to engage
Without any physical interaction, those in attendance will still want to engage with you, so it’s vital that you give them opportunities to do so. Handily, virtual technology can provide your audience with the chance to make up for the loss of interaction a physical trade show would usually offer.
As part of your virtual booth, offer digital brochures and other marketing collateral, invite attendees to connect with you via live chat or let them schedule in a meeting via Zoom – a platform that everyone should be familiar with after the year we’ve just had.
Educate your attendees
In addition to your virtual booth, it’s worth putting together educational sessions to increase your value to the audience. Rather than making it a sales pitch in disguise, use this session to show attendees how knowledgeable you are about your industry.
Establish yourself as an industry expert by giving your audience a few different learning takeaways that they can then follow you up on. As well as a showcase of your industry expertise, use it as an opportunity to introduce attendees to your staff.
As your team demonstrate your product or service in an engaged, insightful way, your audience will be more inclined to build on the conversation further. It’s here that you’ll have the chance to change prospects into leads.
Make sure you’re asking the right questions
In creating these leads, you should be aware that such conversations are a little different from the ones you’d usually have in person. As attendees peruse the materials in your booth, be sure to ask them open-ended questions so you can better understand what it is they need.
By doing so, it’ll help you to more readily qualify or disqualify them as leads – providing you with the clues you need to pursue the prospect further.
After the event
Create value through your follow-ups
In a virtual event, first impressions are a lot different from those you’ll make during a physical trade show. That means you need to make sure your follow-ups matter.
Rather than simply sending the same generic boilerplate message to the leads in your database after the event, you’ll need to be more strategic and specific. A more tailored, personalised follow-up will help to set you apart from other booths, strengthening your connection to those you spoke to during the event.
For example, is there any specific content you can send them that relates to the conversation you had? If they asked any questions, respond to their queries with more detailed, specific answers that relate to them.
After any kind of event, a targeted audience follow-up is important, but with a virtual event, you’ll have to be a bit more thoughtful when messaging those warm leads in a more beneficial manner.
At LifeSize Touch, we’re experts in touchscreen innovation, helping businesses around the UK leverage this exciting technology. For more information, visit the homepage today