May 19, 2020
By Barbara Pavesi

Attending virtual trade shows is a new reality for most us as we navigate this “new normal.” The playbook on this topic hasn’t been written yet. Most of us are figuring it out as we go. At Cvent, we’ve helped manage hundreds of virtual trade shows and have also had our own sales and marketing teams exhibit at many of them. So what does it take to be successful at the virtual trade shows you’re attending? The main takeaway that we’d like to emphasize is that a virtual trade show is still very much a trade show. To get the outcomes that you want, you need to prepare for it with the same rigor and discipline you would for any other in-person trade show.

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5 Tips to Be Successful at the Virtual Trade Shows You're Attending

In this blog post, we’ve done all the hard work for you and are here to share the top 5 tips to be successful at the virtual trade shows you’re attending.

1. Invest in your virtual booth

If you’re a sponsor at the virtual trade show, your virtual booth has to be the best representation of your company and brand. Take advantage of advanced features if they’re available, like HTML5 banners or GIFs. Carefully curate the content you’re making available for download. One advantage of virtual trade shows is that since you don’t have to ship any materials to the venue, you can upload content to the platform up until the day of the show or very close to it, making sure you’re always providing current, up-to-date materials. Consider creating “tracks” for your products and/or personas, so for example, a collection of content that’s grouped together for Product A or Buyer Persona X. Create a consistent look-and-feel from your booth, to the webpages you link out to (if any), and to the downloadable content.

Most importantly, create an experience that will keep people at your booth and make them come back for more. You can create a schedule of events at the booth, such as product demos, guest-speaker hosted sessions, theme-based meetups, and happy hours. You could also go all out and create an “event within an event” with things like celebrity workout classes, mixology lessons and cooking classes with prominent chefs. And now that you have all these great things going on at your booth, make sure you are finding ways to promote it and all this exciting activity. Most trade show organizers will offer ways to advertise on the platform, so take advantage of these opportunities and fill up your booth with visitors. You could also expand your reach by posting your booth events on your social media channels.

2. Pre-book virtual meetings with leads

Stack the deck in your favor before you even arrive at the show. A lot of companies that are taking their trade shows virtual will share with sponsors a list of attendees like they would for an in-person trade show. Make sure you’re identifying the most promising leads and pre-scheduling meetings with them. But, make sure you’re checking the event agenda first, so your meetings are scheduled at convenient times that invitees are more likely to accept. Many meeting-scheduling tools will allow you to include an access link to a virtual meeting to make the process even more seamless. Or, promote your meeting sign-up link on your social channels for interested leads to sign themselves up for meetings with your team. Pre-booking meetings is not only helpful for capturing more leads and closing more deals, it will also allow you to staff the trade show more efficiently.

3. Think strategically about the reps you choose to “send” to the show

Just like with in-person trade shows, think about the type of show and the audience you’re expecting, and then select the reps that have the most relevant product and persona knowledge to have meaningful and engaging conversations. Typically, you would look for reps with the most product knowledge, or with the best relationship-building skills. Or you would look for reps who are personable and outgoing. While all of these qualities remain true and valid when staffing a virtual trade show, one quality to add to the mix is strength of digital communication, i.e., does your rep express him/herself well in emails/messages, is he/she comfortable video conferencing, etc. If you think capturing the attention of a lead at an in-person trade show is hard, wait until you experience a virtual trade show. It’s a whole different ballgame with its own set of challenges, but with thoughtful and strategic staffing, you’ll be sure to nail it.

4. Prepare attention-grabbing messages with relevant content for your reps

We’ve briefly mentioned in the previous point that if you thought capturing the attention of prospects is hard in an in-person event, wait until you try it in a virtual event. That’s why it’s so important to have crafted messages that will cut through the clutter and prompt participants to read, and even engage. Consider creating “incentives” for attendees to respond to your reps’ messages or even gamifying the interactions with prizes. Prospects love to hear from people like them. Share testimonials, statistics, zingers, and facts that are unique to your brand and company. Greetings and pleasantries will not get you very far when trade show attendees are inundated with them. You could take it a step further and created customized messages per persona since the job title should be visible to you. Also, timing is everything. Make sure you have a consistent cadence throughout the day during the times when attendees are most likely paying attention, in-between sessions for example.

5. Have reps capture leads consistently in one place

Make sure reps are capturing leads in a consistent format and that all leads are flowing into a centralized location. At the end of the day, companies attend trade shows, whether virtual or in-person, to collect leads, and if you can’t get those leads in the hands of sales and marketing as quickly as possible then your event ROI is diminished by the day. The bad news is, there is no instant lead capture method (yet) like badge scanning in virtual trade shows. The good news is, it’s typically easier to accurately collect all the information you need by clicking into an attendee’s profile. You will likely find the company name, job title, and email address at the very least. Invest in trade show technology and eliminate the need for Excel or Word for lead collection. Technology will not only allow you to capture leads and qualify them in a consistent format, but if you have a CRM or marketing automation integration in place, your leads will flow seamlessly and automatically according to the rules you have set in place.

Gather Feedback After the Virtual Trade Show

As with in-person trade shows, a virtual trade show doesn’t end when reps “leave” the show. Leads have to get to sales and marketing, and in this “new world” a conference post-con is equally as important. Meet with your team. Get their feedback about what worked well, and what didn’t. Ask what they’ve heard from chatting with prospects or what they’ve seen in other booths. Any and all feedback will help you add to and refine your virtual trade show playbook. That’s certainly what we’ll be doing so check back here frequently to stay up to date.

If you want to learn more about exhibiting at trade shows, watch our on-demand webinar, 5 Ways to Drive Leads at Virtual Trade Shows.

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Barbara Pavesi

Barbara Pavesi is the Senior Trade Show Planner for Cvent. She has over ten years of trade show planning and event marketing experience from multiple industries.

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