What You Need to Know Before You Attend a Virtual Trade Show
This article is about the difference between attending a Virtual (V) Trade Shows vs. a Traditional (T) Trade Show and how best to prepare to get the most of it.
The signing up process: Signing up to go to a Virtual trade show needs to be done online. Compared to a traditional trade show where you could sign up ahead of time online or show up in person the day of the show. Most Virtual shows will allow you to sign up the first day of the show and during the show as well. However, I have found for Virtual shows that by signing up ahead of time and creating a plan is more important than when attending a traditional show.
How does a Virtual Show work? The ones I have attended so far have had pretty much the same process. Live Demos are a big feature for these shows. Normally you must sign up a head of time for a demo and then you will want to add them into your calendar. By adding the demo into your show calendar, this helps to do two things:
- It helps you know when to show up for the demos you are interested in
- Helps when planning, so you don’t sign up for two demos in the same time slot
During the live demo there will be a group of people viewing it along with you. The company will demo one product, several products or possible a total solution. Sometimes they will have a chat program where you can write in questions during the demo and get your questions answered. Some questions can be answered during the live demo and others will have to be followed up with you personally after the demo. Once you identify an item you are interested in, the next step would be to setup a one on one call or Zoom meeting with them to gather more detailed information.
If you do not attend any demos, then your process would be to click into the booths of the companies you are interested in their products. The shows I have attended to this point you will find the booth just as a place where you can enter to gain more information. So far, I have not attended a virtual trade show that has a 3 D booth. I did Google it to see if they exist and they do so I am sure in the near future I will attend one is in a 3 D format. I also saw online that some shows use livestreaming, however the shows I have attended to date did not have that feature. Once in the booth, you will find a brief description of the company and products they are featuring, some will provide videos, catalogs, brochures and show specials. Let’s say you are interested in a unit or have additional questions; at this point your options are usually:
- Chat with someone from the company. Usually they have several to choose from which could be a technical person, sales person, all the way up to the executives and owners of the company.
- Ask them to call you or
- Setup an online meeting through Zoom, Go to Meeting or some other platform.
The Planning Process: I found for myself to plan ahead of time I was able to get the most out of a virtual show compared to when I have attend traditional shows I rarely prepared ahead of time. I might have done a few minutes of homework to see if my customers, prospects, or competitors were on the list and make sure I passed by those booth numbers. Give some thought to what are the products you are looking for, who are the companies you want to search for or what is a process or topic you would like to learn more about. Unlike a traditional show where you spend all day or most of the day once you get there, a virtual show you can come and go as you please. You do not have to spend all day on the computer as if you were at a traditional show.
Let’s create a plan: Most shows will give you several options to choose from when creating your plan. here are a few examples of the ones I have used:
- Search by a Date – maybe you are only free for one of the days or several of the days of the show
- Search by Live Demos
- Search by Category
- Search by Exhibitor / Company Name
- Search by Keywords
For me, it was important to see several live demos. So, I started my plan around finding these companies, the products I was interested in and signed up for a live demo. One show I attended had the opportunity to see over 2,000 live demos which were 15 minutes each, so planning this out ahead of time helped me to get the most out of the show.
Since virtual shows are a new venue, many have videos and tutorials on how to navigate the show, find what you are looking for and best practices to get the most out of that show.
If you would ask me what my preference is, I would say I like both types of shows. Sometimes I need to see things and get my hands on them and other times I just can’t fit the time into my schedule to travel and be out of the office a bunch of days to attend a big show. Here is a list of the benefits and things I liked from a virtual show:
- A benefit to the virtual show is the ability to mark what you have seen and what you want to see. It is easy to keep track of and go back to.
- If you chat with people at the show, the chat is recorded for you to go back to see the details
- Keeping track of people, you have talked to and chatted with is easy
- Relaxing from your home or office chair while meeting with many
- The ability to stop and start whenever it is convenient for you over the x amount of days the show lasts.
I hope this gives you some insight and makes your first virtual show a success for you.