In another sign of the interesting times we live in currently, the annual Meetings Show moved to virtual this year. The popular events industry show celebrated the best of meetings, events and incentives over three content-filled online exhibition days from 19-21 October 2020.
Our Business Development Manager, Marina Papadopoulou, hosted the virtual booth of Church House Westminster at The Meetings Show. We couldn’t resist asking her thoughts on how different the exhibitor experience was this year compared to the in-person event from previous years. In this blog, Marina also shares her top tips for successfully making the shift from face-to-face to virtual trade exhibitions.
Marina commented: “The need to connect for exhibitors and customers across different but relevant touchpoints is so crucial for virtual exhibitions to be successful for both parties”.
Here, Marina shares her exhibitor checklist for virtual trade shows
- Join the pre-show promotion drive which raises awareness of the show and your exhibitor exposure. Take part in social media and email campaigns to build anticipation of the show and drip-feed content and giveaways. If there is a dedicated hashtag, use it and start networking pre-show.
- Familiarise yourself with the event website, event platform or event app. It should be a virtual platform allowing visitors to easily navigate interactive virtual exhibitor halls with names/photos of exhibitors and offer the opportunity to make connections in a click. Tech support for the platform is important and a must-have pre, during and post-show.
- Focus on your virtual booth set up. Good platforms offer customisable options to personalise the experience for visitors and reinforce your branding.
- Once you are happy with your profile and virtual booth presentation, start to schedule meetings using published attendee lists. Based on the profile of attendees (company, location, short bios, interests) browse, filter and research the list of attendees prior to the show. Do connect with them on LinkedIn to stay in touch after the event. The show organisers may also run a pre-event survey for attendees, which use AI to successfully match (or recommend) exhibitors with attendees, based on requirements and interest.
On the day of the virtual trade show
Networking is now in full swing. Remember, meeting peers and expanding business networks is one of the most important reasons people attend industry trade shows and conferences.
Here’s how to replicate the in-person experience and increase attendee engagement:
- Use instant notifications by sending customised notifications to attendees and exhibitors. This will create traffic for virtual exhibitor booths and also provide relevant and timely connections. It also supports and guides visitors on their virtual trade show journey which will increase dwelling time for the virtual trade show.
- Join networking (social) spaces where attendees are looking to get access to experts in the field, attend insightful panels, and explore educational opportunities.
- Activate chat, which can be a live chat or video chat feature. This can be quite versatile to target 1-to-1 conversations (private chats) and group discussions based on show themes and moderated by a facilitator.
- Drop content by hosting a live workshop or interactive demo.
- Join virtual meeting breakout spaces along with attendees to take part in industry discussions and Q&As which are facilitated by moderators
- Amp up gamification ideas when interacting with attendees. You want to incentivise attendees to explore many different virtual areas. By doing so, they might win prizes or collect stamps. Refer to an interactive leaderboard if there is one, to encouraging networking.
- The show organiser will allow plenty of time slots to explore interactive virtual exhibitor halls during the virtual trade show. Panels featuring interactive show content such as live recordings like a short video will recreate the live experience. Other show content to display on the virtual exhibitor plans should include interactive text or audio; translation services, on-demand videos (for those that missed an educational session or webinar), and a countdown to the keynote speaker.
- Check that the event website, event platform or event app will remain open for follow-up after the virtual trade show.
- To continue the conversations, send bespoke thank-you’s that offer real value to those who you have met virtually.
- Use data from your lead capture lists to estimate ROI and nurture leads that may convert into customers afterwards.