How To

How to maximise the virtual trade show experience

by Rachel Roberts |

The trade show has always been a key communications opportunity for brand and business-to-business marketing, but in our current socially distanced world how can organisations fill the void?

A new breed of virtual trade shows has already sprung up to provide a solution to help businesses and brands to continue to connect to their audience, and spottydog was excited to put the opportunity to the test when we attended the Virtual Petindex industry event organised by the Pet Industry Federation.

The event was run through a dedicated virtual events software platform – Vfairs – which is designed specifically to recreate the trade show experience, offering visitors the chance to browse a virtual exhibition hall and stands, networking capability and live seminars.

As a visitor to the show you sign up to join the event online at a dedicated show portal – the event we attended was free to visit, but some virtual events are making a nominal charge to ensure delegates stay committed to attending.

The show was ran over two days – Sunday and Monday – this format works well as it enables visitors to dip in and out at their convenience.  Spending all day online at a virtual event is not going to be a great experience for anyone, so giving visitors the luxury of two days to visit makes it much more accessible than a traditional trade show.  What’s more, all of the content of this trade show is available online for 30 days after the show closes, so there’s a possibility to engage with even more visitors than a traditional event, increasing the value for money.

On the date of the live event, the show portal comes alive, with visitors able to enter the exhibition hall and begin browsing stands.  The show organisers had arranged a series of seminars that ran across the day, creating a live event feel, especially as seminar speakers were available for live Q&As in a virtual chat room.

The Petindex Virtual Pet Trade Show

As an exhibitor the virtual trade show provided spottydog with a number of opportunities – we delivered a live seminar ‘Telling your brand story through video’ as well as hosting our own stand.

Creating our virtual stand was really easy and simply a case of adding graphics to a template stand layout from eight different options.  This gave us the functionality to add graphics, video, documents and links to our website.

Stand visitors who wanted to find out more could engage with us through live chat functionality.

The spottydog communications stand at the Pet Index Virtual Trade Show

The show gave us a great experience of the opportunities and limitations a virtual trade show can offer and these are our top take away tips:

#1 Create a reason to visit your virtual stand – just as at a real event you might have a competition, challenge or special offer – its really important you create some activity specifically for your virtual trade show event so that visitors feel that they are getting something unique from attending the event.

At our trade show event, spottydog invited our stand visitors to guess how many steps our office dog walked in May as a competition to win an explainer video and in exchange we also made a donation to Birmingham Dog’s Home.

#2  A virtual show format means you have to work harder to showcase your products and services.  In the real world visitors can touch and experience your product, or sales people can explain your offer.  The virtual format means that you need great video and collateral to tell your story better.  I’d also recommend you create bespoke video for the event

#3 Work social media hard – at our event very few other exhibitors were using the show hashtag so we were able to secure a much higher presence at the event for free.  We also live tweeted during our video seminar to promote our speaking slot and give a sense of live experience and kept an eye on other show visitors posting on Linkedin, Twitter and Instagram.

#4 Ensure you rota team members to man the stand – a virtual event can be very intense as virtual chats can happen at any time and having a couple of team members means you can share the load as well as keep an eye on social media.

#5 Have a follow up plan – often real world events miss this trick and forget to plan follow up communications after a trade show so you can build on the connections you made.

Considering participating in your own trade or consumer virtual show? Want to have a walk through our virtual stand experience? Get in touch with the spottydog team – we’ve got a host of experience attending trade shows in the home, property, technology, leisure and pet sectors and we’re now ‘virtually’ ready for action to help clients connect to their audience using this new awesome event format.