Are Virtual Trade Shows the New Normal?

Virtual Trade Shows by the Dozens

Yep, no doubt about it. COVID-19 changed the world forever. Physical distancing seems to be the new normal. Face masks and fear of spreading or contracting this virus is widely accepted. Trade show attendance? Most say “Not me until we are safe!”

In many locations, businesses are reopening. Some shops are doing a great deal of business and need supplies like inks, media, and even new equipment. But, without a tradeshow, how can they get the “show specials”? How do they get demos of the equipment? What about installations? How will they learn how to use the new printer?

Enter the virtual trade show.

Virtual Trade Shows Are Not New. 

Virtual trade shows are not exactly new. From the time online access became available to the masses, the idea of a virtual trade show was explored. According to Wikipedia: “The “virtual tradeshow” was first publicly described and presented as “ConventionView” by Alan Saperstein and Randy Selman of Visual Data Corporation now known as Onstream Media[1] in April 1993 in a presentation to investors at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. The company was videotaping trade show exhibitors booths and then attaching the videos to HTML floor maps. Although Conventionview met with some early success, the company closed it down returning to the market with a multimedia virtual tradeshow platform called MarketPlace365 in November 2010.”

Today, a virtual trade show can be owned, managed, and marketed by a single person from the comfort of their home! 

All that is needed is a good platform, the ability to separate the show into “booths” and the capability of accepting payments through eCommerce. That’s not that big a deal. Managing the show, and getting people to show up can be.

Attending a Virtual Trade Show

More importantly, how can you attend a virtual tradeshow and get the most from it? I’ve done the booth side as well as the attended side, and I have some tips.

Tips for Creating a Good Virtual Booth

If you are a potential vendor and thinking about a booth at a virtual event, think hard and find a millennial! I say this because Millenials are internet, social people. They simply get it. So, when designing your booth, ask them about it. What would they think a good landing page might look like? What would they look for on that page? What would make them look further?

Most internet folks these days are very video-oriented. Remember, Instagram is a short few seconds of video and that’s all the time you have to get attention. Design a booth that has instant, grabbing video. Once you have the attention, you can lead them to the next “portal” which might be a download or another video. 

At the live tradeshow, people love free stuff. Free T-Shirts, free prints, etc, so set up some kind of free giveaway, but make sure they have to leave contact info and more importantly interest info before they get it!

The Big Difference

The big difference in a virtual booth and a live trade show booth is the time for engagement. You have seconds on a virtual booth while you have an eye to eye contact in a live booth and perhaps a few minutes. This is vital. SECONDS! Your message or attention-getter must do its job in seconds!

Additionally, it’s important to make your videos appear to be “live” as much as possible. This means that those in the video need to present as if they were talking to a customer. When filming them and perhaps in the planning to film, make sure that they are relaxed and personable. Create a video that is engaging, that creates a reason to ask questions! That means a chat!

Chat Boxes

Chat boxes allow for a live discussion between your sales staff and the attendee. BUT…BUT…it’s a chat! Most will not engage you. You will have to “force” them by using clever statements like, “Let’s talk and you’ll get a gift!” or “Let’s talk now and I can share a significant discount on our products!”. You’ll need something to get them to talk because chatting is not like talking. You might even suggest that they call you so you can have a live discussion!

Just keep it real and engaging and if it’s a busy show, you’ll need lots of help in the chatbox!

Tips for Attending a Virtual Trade Show

Okay, enough for now for the vendors, what about YOU? If you are attending a virtual show, you NEED to engage! The vendors have put in hours to create a booth, and it’s up to you to engage them. Ask about specials. Ask about whats new. Ask anything! These folks want to offer you something and probably it’s a great deal!

I can assure you, they are ready to make deals. Remember, they were closed too! They want to kick start sales and now is your time to make the deal!

The Bottom Line on Virtual Trade Shows

So here is the bottom line. Vendors have spent money on these shows and are figuring out how to make them engaging. You are attending and have the control. All you need to do is engage, I can assure you, you’ll get a deal you won’t believe!

Here are some shows you might want to check out:

2021 Color Conference




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