Virtual Trade Show Exhibits: How to Network in a Pandemic

Prepare for Your Virtual Exhibit

How to prepare so that your business reaps the rewards


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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.

  • Virtual Trade Show Exhibits: How Does a Virtual Trade Show Work?

    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.

The Value of Virtual Trade Show Exhibits

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.

How to Prepare for Your Virtual Trade Show Exhibit

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?

  • 1 Training and 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.

  • 2 Adjust Your Thought Process

    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.

  • 3 Anticipate Challenges

    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.

  • Internet Connection

    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.

  • Personalization in a Virtual Space

    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.

  • Engaging the Senses

    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.

  • Competing with Distractions

    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:

    • Hosting educational sessions
    • Engaging in a chat with your viewers
    • Hosting a question and answer panel
    • Posting surveys

    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.

Virtual Trade Show Setup

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.

How to Prepare

  • Just like with a traditional trade show, your first step is to research your virtual trade show options and sign up for the one(s) that fit best with your company and clientele. You may or may not have already taken this step.
  • Next, read up on the show(s) in which you plan to display an exhibit. You may receive some information via email, or the organizers may send you some physical literature. Read whatever the organizers send your way, and take some time to explore these shows’ websites. This information will include instructions on how to set up virtual trade show exhibits in their space. Each trade show will likely have slight variations, so if you sign up for more than one within a short span of time, make sure that you familiarize yourself with the differences.
  • Next, it’s time to build your booth. Even if you’ve always set up your own booths in the past, when it comes to virtual trade show exhibits, it’s a good idea to talk to an expert. Contact someone who knows how these spaces work and who has experience building exhibits. If you have a particular vision for your exhibit, let your booth expert know. Between your vision and their expertise, you can create an excellent virtual booth.
  • During your discussions, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your exhibit builder should have no problem answering questions about their experience, their reason for choosing certain aspects, and other exhibit-related information.

Blazer Exhibits for Virtual Trade Shows

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.

What We Do

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.

Going Virtual

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.

Adapting for the Future

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.

Ready to Learn More?

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.