5 Tips to Effectively Exhibit and Sell at Online Trade Shows
In the pivot to virtual and hybrid events, many exhibitors have had to change their tactics when it comes to exhibiting with excellence. When it came to in-person trade fairs and exhibitions, many successful event appearances required a considerable expenditure on booth development– in terms of design, construction, and importantly– staffing. But when exhibitions pivoted to virtual, many of the lessons learned about effective exhibiting seemingly went out the window. However, today’s virtual booths require the same level of consideration when it comes to design, construction and staffing- if exhibitors wish to have an exhibition experience that converts and makes sales. As exhibitions move forward in a hybrid concept, it is important for brands not to neglect the digital aspects of their appearance. Here’s how to make the best of it:
1- Building appropriate media
The media you choose to showcase your company’s products and services at your booth is one of the most important avenues to build connections with your prospective buyers. Prior to the event, you should identify key outcomes you would like your event appearance to achieve, and develop your media specifically to achieve those goals. For example, if you are looking to promote a new product, you can utilize formats that showcase your products most effectively, such as a pre-recorded demo, or walkthrough video. You may even incorporate a 3-D or virtual model of your new product that visitors can interact with onscreen. If you are looking to showcase your expertise, a fireside chat with some of your key personnel, discussing their design and product decisions might be a great option. When it comes to a virtual presentation, there are many different media concept designs you can choose to evoke certain responses from your viewer– such as building trust, demonstrating expertise or sharing information. By choosing your formats strategically, you will be able to achieve your defined event goals. Producing an effective virtual media package is an excellent investment for exhibitors, as the media can be used long after the trade fair, and shared across social media.
2- Preparing your booth/company presence
The key to building an effective digital fair experience requires an adept use of technology to ensure your brand and products stand out amongst all the alternatives on the digital platform. Here, it’s important to build your booth to showcase your company’s individuality and highlight your brand. Alongside your media productions, ensure a coherent brand presence amongst your team staffing your booth, by incorporating similar digital backgrounds, or frames to their video images. You may make something special or bespoke to this specific event so that it is instantly recognizable. The language and branding on your booth should be consistent, it should look and feel identifiable with your brand and image. You might even want to incorporate a unique hashtag or identifier, possibly an emoji that can be used on the event platform and off– on your social media that will tie in with your event appearance. Here, you should consider each touchpoint a participant in the virtual platform will have with your brand, and ensure that that experience is unique and memorable. If you are exhibiting at a hybrid fair, make sure your virtual appearance is consistent with your in-person one, so that everyone on your team looks and appears recognizable to your audience.
3- Building connections on the platform
On the digital trade show floor, you can’t depend on spontaneous meetings from those who casually walk by your booth. Effective staffing of a virtual trade show booth requires some strategic know-how and preparation. This begins as soon as the event platform opens, and far before the event “officially starts”. As soon as you can, begin building your team’s personal profiles, and completing them with as detailed information as possible. If you’re a buyer or looking for partnerships– be open about it! Clearly identify what you are looking for, and provide a way for interested parties to reach out. If you’re exhibiting, it’s your time to shine and showcase what you have to offer. In each case, don’t forget to provide a few methods of how you can best be reached. Once you’ve built your profiles, begin examining the participant directory, and start reaching out to prospective buyers. Don’t be afraid to make the first move. You can also begin sparking spontaneous conversations by engaging on the event platform itself when it officially begins, either in the comment fields, in the chat windows, or the social walls. Each interaction you make makes it easier for others to connect with you. By being as open, and as visible as possible, the more approachable you will be perceived, and the more likely that participants will get in touch.
4- Creating appropriate avenues to connect, frictionless meetings
As I’ve just shared, staffing your “digital” booth digital booth is more than just waiting for people to show up. You have to create the opportunity for connections to happen, by identifying the connections and making the first move. Once you’ve made that connection, it’s important for your team to make the digital meeting process as seamless as possible– whether it is having a regular meeting table where you can facilitate drop-in visitors, or having private meeting slots for interested parties that integrate with their existing calendar. In the digital fair, the goal is to have as many different connection options as you can, to make it as easy as possible for interested buyers to connect in the way that makes the most sense for them. Before the digital fair, plan out different scenarios with your sales teams of how the booth should be staffed during the week and confirm your availability throughout the event’s duration. Work with your team to ensure a consistent plan of how to manage leads that come up during the exhibition, and how they can be managed in a coherent way.
5- Following up after the show
Your digital or hybrid trade fair experience does not end as the show ends. Here, it is important to follow up with all of your new connections, as well as to continue to monitor the event platform’s attendee list for prospective leads you may have missed. Continue building connections with those that might be relevant, and develop a plan for you to recycle the media you used for your digital appearance, off the platform. You can find opportunities to reshare the media you produced, by repackaging it in different ways. For instance, a fireside chat can be edited into snippets, that can easily be shared on social media. A product demonstration can become the cornerstone for a regular webinar series that gives the opportunity for Q&A. Unlike in-person booth elements that are often thrown away after the show– use your media to live on, to continue highlighting your brand long after the show is done. Prepare your follow-up materials in advance, so you are ready to send them (even better: automate them!) when the show concludes. Trade fairs and exhibitions can be exhausting, so you will want to have a plan for how you follow up and act on each lead as effectively as possible.
From our experience, we have seen the real benefits that exhibitors can have from hybrid trade fairs, and how easy it is to have an impactful and effective online trade fair experience. Exhibiting at an online exhibition can, in many ways, can be even more efficient than exhibiting in person. It just takes some foresight, and acceptance that things might be a little bit different than they are for an in-person show. If you’d like to learn more about this topic– be sure to check out our free guide, “Exhibiting with Excellence”. You can find it at the link here. And if you have any questions– please feel free to reach out to me– here. I’d be more than happy to answer them.
PIRATEx Head of New Business