When the pandemic started, a lot of people figured that it wouldn’t last long. After a month or two, surely we’d have the whole thing under control, right? Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Several months later, large gatherings are still a major health risk, and even trips to the grocery store shouldn’t be done without a mask and social distancing procedures.
To make matters more difficult, some careers don’t translate to the virtual sphere as well as others. For example, if you regularly or semi-regularly attend trade shows for your company, then you know that adjusting to socially-distant events can be especially challenging. The good news? Virtual trade show exhibits can provide a way for you to promote your company in a semi-familiar way.
The bad news, of course, is that virtual trade shows just aren’t the same as the real thing, and marketing professionals like you are feeling the loss. Many of our clients have expressed sadness over the changes this year. However, virtual trade shows still have value, and with the right preparation, company owners can create effective, eye-catching virtual exhibits.
First, to build the best virtual trade show exhibits, marketing professionals will need to get to know the virtual trade show process. As you well know, a regular trade show involves several physical booths, lots of face-to-face networking, and industry insiders getting to know the lay of the land.
Virtual trade shows include all of the networking and industry insider conversations, but those conversations move to a digital space instead of a physical expo. Now, what does that digital space look like? Interestingly, if you’re familiar with roleplaying video games, you may already have an idea of what virtual trade shows look like. When you log on into the event, you’ll see a 3D image of an exhibition hall, complete with other "players" wandering the space.
In this case, though, your objective is not to defeat a villain but to network with other professionals. Through this space, you can set up your own booth, click on other people’s virtual trade show exhibits, gather contact information, and watch informative presentations. You can wander the virtual space at your leisure, and you can designate different members of your team to oversee your virtual booth at different times, much like you would in the real world. In this case, though, passing the baton is as simple as waiting for the next team member to log on.
Some marketing professionals love the idea of virtual trade show exhibits. Others seem less than thrilled. If you fall into the second camp, it’s okay to miss attending events in a real space. However, trade show researchers have found a lot of value in the virtual space.
First of all, even though virtual trade shows look different than real-space events, those who organize and attend these events report the same values for their virtual experience as they do for their traditional trade shows.
According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, those values include community, networking, and learning new things. Because virtual trade show participants still take these values seriously, they bring these values into the virtual event space.
If these values make up a major part of your trade show goals, then you can rest assured that you’re still communicating with like-minded individuals. There’s no need to worry about missing out on your values, even if the presentation of those values looks a bit different than usual this year.
Next, trade shows are profitable, and they can remain profitable even among virtual trade show exhibits. Entrepreneur illustrates this point:
Exhibiting at a trade show is an excellent way to find customers to help your business grow…Trade shows are also economical ways of getting sales. The CEIR reports that closing a sale that begins with contact at a trade show runs about half the cost of closing a sale that doesn’t have the exhibition advantage: $550 and 1.4 sales calls compared to $997 and 3.6 sales calls.
Because virtual trade shows have all the same goals as a real-space trade show, there’s no reason virtual events shouldn’t be as profitable as their non-virtual counterparts. Granted, virtual events will come with challenges that non-virtual events don’t face. However, the opposite is also true, as virtual events avoid many of the challenges that come with real-space events. Marketers may leverage the advantages of virtual trade show exhibits to make these events profitable for their companies.
Virtual trade shows may also help marketing professionals reach a wider audience. In the real world, humans simply cannot be in two places at once. In the virtual world, however, people can navigate between several distinct spaces without ever leaving the house. This is where virtual trade shows gain an advantage over traditional trade shows.
Have you ever missed a valuable networking event because you had another business obligation? Many marketers have found themselves in this position. It’s much easier, however, to attend both opportunities if at least one of those opportunities is virtual. As a result, when you set up a virtual trade show exhibit, you may get to network with people who wouldn’t have been able to attend the event if it had taken place in a non-virtual space.
In the same vein, virtual events can help you save money on travel expenses, since you won’t need fuel or hotel costs. As a result, your sales may become even more profitable than they would have been in a regular trade show.
You can even attend more than one trade show at the same time, which you certainly couldn’t do in real space. While you’re working multiple trade shows, why not use the same basic template for all of your virtual trade show exhibits? This method will give you yet another way to save money.
Some pandemic-related changes may stay long after the pandemic has ended, and virtual trade shows may just be one of those things. This does not mean, however, that virtual trade shows will ever completely replace face-to-face events. As Alibaba.com president John Caplan said in a quote for MDM, We think the…digital trade show is a better use of people’s time and money than the ‘old world’ model, but I do think the physical trade show will return. Just like peanut butter and jelly make the perfect sandwich — you need both.
The future of business may include a mix of virtual and face-to-face trade shows, giving marketers the benefits of both. This mixture may prove quite profitable for your company in the future, so why not spend this time learning the ropes alongside your fellow marketing professionals?
Virtual trade show exhibits can also help you gather valuable data for your company. The COVID-19 pandemic, and all of the measures you’ve had to take to keep your employees and clients safe, may have put your data conversations on hold for the past several months. Your virtual trade show participation may just bring those conversations back to life.
Up until the pandemic ground business to a halt, business owners, managers, and CEOs had really started realizing the value of data. By learning more about their clients, including what they want and how they spend their money, business people can make the most of their marketing, product development, and much more.
Much of that data came from trade shows. Now, virtual trade show exhibits can help businesses start gathering relevant data again. In fact, these virtual events can provide more data than face-to-face events can.
Once you’ve chosen a virtual trade show (or two, or three, etc.) to attend, you’ll want to prepare so that your business reaps the rewards and gets the best outcomes. Overall, getting ready for virtual trade show exhibits is very similar to preparing for real-space exhibits. You’ll make sure that you have adequate materials, prepare for networking, and do most of the other things that you’d do for a regular expo. However, aside from the fact that you won’t have to iron your good pants, what other differences can you expect from virtual trade show preparation?
First, pursue training and virtual preparation before you get started. Just like the training you probably received before your first real-space trade show, training for a virtual trade show can help you stay prepared and get to know the space. Trade show hosts provide a wealth of information for their guests, so read up on this information as you prepare. Go over any emails and other materials that the hosts provide. The sooner you begin your preparation, the better, and the more you get to know the virtual arena, the more comfortable you’ll feel while using it during the expo.
Next, don’t expect virtual trade show exhibits to provide the same experience as a traditional trade show. It’s best to come to terms with the differences upfront.
For some, virtual spaces provide more comfort, anyway. For those who find large crowds overwhelming or tiring, a virtual trade show may provide the perfect space to network without the need for recovery afterward. Networking can take a lot of stamina, but it may be easier for introverted CEOs to ration their social energy while surrounded by the comforts of home.
However, for those who thrive on conversation and meeting new people, virtual trade shows may seem like a bit of a let-down. In that case, it may be helpful to shift how you think about virtual trade events. If your personality tends to the extroverted, then don’t think about virtual events as substitutes or consolation prizes for "the real thing." Instead, think of them as a completely separate form of networking with their own pros and cons. Remember that traditional trade shows will return, and in the meantime, you get to put another tool in your business toolbox.
As you prep your virtual trade show exhibit, understand that you’ll face challenges that you might not have faced in a traditional expo hall. Plan for these challenges ahead of time, and you’ll avoid being caught off-guard when the date of the trade show arrives.
First of all, make sure that you have a fast, reliable internet connection. If not, do you have a safe way to use another connection? Maybe you have a hotspot that you can use for a few hours, for example. In any case, yFirst of all, make sure that you have a fast, reliable internet connection. If not, do you have a safe way to use another connection? Maybe you have a hotspot that you can use for a few hours, for example. In any case, you’ll want a stable connection, and you should have a Plan B, just in case the unexpected happens.
Next, ask yourself how to personalize your exhibit. Virtual trade show exhibits, by nature, have a less personal feel than in-person events. Think about how you’ll make your virtual exhibit unique to your company. Make sure that it sends the right message about who you are and what your business does.
While you’re thinking about this personalization, it’s a good idea to work with an expert who knows all about virtual trade show exhibits. Give them time to get to know your company, and tell them about the message that you want to send. They’ll work with you and help you develop a plan to move your exhibit into a virtual space.
Next, consider the five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. With virtual trade show exhibits, you lose many of those sensory elements. For example, think about all of the tactile elements that people experience at a trade show. Your potential clients won’t be able to shake your hand, rest their elbows on your countertop, or feel the smoothness of your business card as you place it in their hands.
These elements may not seem important at first. In fact, for some, the lack of sensory information is actually an advantage. Much like some people get overwhelmed by a lot of social interaction, some people also get overwhelmed with too much sensory information. However, not all of your "visitors" will feel that way, and overall, the senses play a big part in people’s decisions and buying habits.
As a business owner or manager, maybe you’ve hired people to create appealing visual displays. Perhaps you’ve used pleasant-smelling products for your place of business. Humans use their senses to engage with the world, so it makes sense that we engage our senses in our buying decisions.
With your virtual exhibit, you’ll need to find other ways to engage the senses of your potential client. One way to accomplish this goal is through excellent communication. You might say things like "Picture this…" or describe the weight and feel of a specific product.
In addition to sensory engagement, you’ll need to find other ways to engage your contacts and keep their attention as they visit your virtual exhibit. When you talk to a person at a traditional trade show, you more or less have that person’s undivided attention. At a virtual trade show, however, you’re competing with all of the distractions in that person’s home. As you chat with someone, that person’s child or pet may enter the room. They may get hungry and wander off to get a snack while their avatar stands idly at your booth.
These distractions are unavoidable, but you can make your exhibit worth paying attention to, even in the midst of the distractions. You have several options for holding people’s attention and keeping them engaged longer, including:
These aren’t your only options, and it never hurts to get creative. Spend some time thinking about your choices, and don’t be afraid to talk to your virtual exhibit builder for advice.
Obviously, setting up virtual trade show exhibits is a different process than setting up traditional trade show exhibits. There’s certainly a learning curve to the process. Don’t stress over the changes, though. Remember that everyone else at the trade show is learning the ropes, too.
If you’re looking for virtual trade show help, take a look at Blazer Exhibits. The Blazer team is here to help you with your virtual booth needs. We understand that trade shows look very different right now, and we know that these differences come with challenges, even for the most experienced and creative business leaders. We’ll help you make the transitions easier as you make the best of this unfamiliar format.
The Blazer team has over 35 years of experience designing and building trade show exhibits. We pride ourselves on end-to-end management, which not only includes design, but logistics, freight, setup, and tear down as well
Most importantly, we make sure that our clients stand apart from the crowd. We believe that our clients deserve better than cookie-cutter displays. They need exhibits that capture the heart and soul of their businesses, and they can’t have that kind of exhibit if their displays make them look like everybody else.
Our displays catch people’s attention so that our clients can make the most of their networking opportunities.
We’re no strangers to virtual exhibits. We’ve always included a free 3D booth design with each of our custom creations. The 3D rendering allows us to show our clients the full picture of what their booth will look like on display.
Now that many trade shows have gone virtual, we’re applying our 3D rendering skills to virtual trade show exhibits. We had no trouble making the transition, thanks to our years of digital graphic design experience. Now, we simply put that experience to work in new digital environments.
Once again, virtual trade shows will likely remain a part of the business world, even long after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. As a marketing professional, your future may include attending many types of trade show events.
The Blazer team is prepared for that future. We take pride in staying a step ahead of the game and always looking for what’s next in the trade show world. Our clients can always count on us to provide what they need, no matter how much the landscape changes.
Adaptation and flexibility are key parts of our business model. We’re prepared for anything so that you can be prepared, too.
Want to learn more about virtual trade show exhibits? We’d love to answer your questions. Contact the Blazer Exhibits team now. Let’s start building a virtual trade show exhibit that will give your company the attention that it deserves.