Virtual trade fairs: 6 preparation steps for successful participation
Despite increasing global reliance on digital interaction, physical trade shows remain popular and are an important aspect of business worldwide. The current global pandemic has brought these physical events to a complete standstill. Major European trade fairs such as Sial, Ambiente, In-Cosmetics, and Biofach have either canceled or postponed their 2020 and 2021 editions. Instead, they develop virtual alternatives to their canceled events. But how do you prepare for a digital trade fair? We help you out!
When participating in your first virtual trade show, it might feel a bit confusing. While most platforms are relatively simple, good preparation is the key to success. You, and your team, will feel more confident if you have taken the time to prepare leading up to the day of the event. Below you find 6 steps for successful trade fair participation:
1. Prepare your strategy and objectives
With any trade fair, the first question to ask yourself is why you need to participate. Well before the start of trade shows season, you need to prepare a strategy clearly. Set your goals and objectives straight to ensure you get the most out of it. Organizing yourself, by making a planning, reduces last-minute stress, and will result in a great return of investment!
2. Choose the right fair
Now you have set clear objectives, it is time to choose the right fair. Just like a physical event, there are some questions you need to consider:
- Will you be able to meet your existing customers and potential customers at your selected virtual fair?
- Is it, a virtual edition of, an established trade fair?
- Do you have accurate information on the number of expected visitors?
- Are your competitors participating in the fair?
If these questions are largely answered with yes, you should definitely consider participating.
3. Invest in your virtual booth and get to know the event technology
There are probably numerous possibilities and features for setting up your virtual booth. Before you start investing in your booth, check out what the possibilities are at the fair that you have chosen. Getting to know the technology is essential! There might exist restrictions when it comes to creating your virtual booth – such as size limits for uploading photos and videos. Take the time to review all training materials, resources, event instructions, and schedules provided by the event organizers. Don’t forget to practice all chat and matchmaking functions! Test out every link and familiarize yourself with the booth content. That way, nothing will come as a surprise to you.
It does not matter if a trade fair is virtual or physical – the first impression of your booth is still key. This is the place where your visitors engage with your product or service. Most trade fair platforms offer ready to use templates, but if you want to stand out from your competition you can consider having your booth designed by a professional. Use high quality and appealing photos and videos. This ensures your message is clearly presented. You are not just competing with other booths, but you also want to retain a (potential) customers’ attention as long as possible. If you lose their attention for just one moment, they can slip away. In digital trade fairs, content needs to be clearer and stronger than anywhere else.
4. Study the attendee list and make appointments before the fair
Most virtual fairs share the attendee list with exhibitors a few days prior to the event. Study the list and identify potential leads. Most virtual platforms allow you to book one on one meetings or offer a matchmaking tool. Make sure you start making appointments weeks before the event, as many of your potential leads and existing customers will soon have a full agenda.
5. Engage in trade fair marketing
Before, during, and after the virtual fair, you want to draw as much attention to your booth as possible. Before the trade fair, you can do this by using trade fairs hashtag on social channels. Use the launch of a new product or service as a teaser or create a landing page on your website specifically for this event. Put the word out that you are participating in that particular virtual trade fair. Invite your existing customers, potential customers, suppliers, and other contacts that might also attend the event. Attendees that have engaged with you previously, will likely check out your booth during the actual happening. Stay active on social media during the event as well. You could even host a contest or a giveaway to draw extra attention to your booth.
6. Leads registration and follow up
During a virtual fair, you are not able to ask your contacts for a business card. To avoid contact details that might get lost, make sure you have a clear plan in place to gather and register leads. If you have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, have it open in a different tab to capture any potential leads directly. If you do not have a system like that, you can have one of your representatives register leads in a document. Take time to ensure effective follow up on the contacts gathered during the virtual fair. Send a short, personalized email to all leads generated. Tell them who you are and what you discussed during the trade fair. Create trust and try to meet the expectation of the potential customer. This will increase your chances for new business.