Virtual trade shows can serve as stand-alone events or be used in conjunction with live shows for added momentum and marketing impact. Just like a traditional trade show, a virtual event requires thoughtful planning, strong marketing and focused execution to be successful.
If you are looking to host a virtual show for the first time, click here for guidelines on successful planning and implementation. Then, review the following tips to enhance the marketing and effectiveness of your online event.Have online show visitors register. Give them an ID number to make it easy to request more information from the vendors online, rather than having to fill out forms at each virtual booth. If you are hosting a virtual show to complement a live tradeshow event, make the exhibition floor layout and booth locations match. Then, provide online maps of the show floor and link each booth on the map to the vendor’s virtual booth information. Let visitors search virtual trade shows at least three ways: company name, booth number, or type of products. Have the grand opening of your virtual trade show at least two weeks before the actual conference. Encourage each vendor to offer a “show special” that is featured on their trade show page. Offer coupons that online visitors can print and bring to the live show. As the organizer, you should plan to offer special coupons online as well. Consider a free drink coupon or a special souvenir of the conference, only available with the coupon. Provide online stations in the exhibit area so that live visitors can visit the online trade show. Provide a printer to print coupons or number the coupons so that they can bring the number to the booth for the “special” discount. Use a digital camera at the live show to take a picture of each booth. Add the photos to the vendors’ pages for after-the-show identification. Leave virtual trade shows online for at least three months after each event so that attendees can follow up. Consider a year-round show with vendors who sign up for next year’s live show participating all year long for a reduced fee. Offer a virtual booth only fee to vendors who cannot be at the live show. Price it accordingly. Include a means for vendors to create their virtual booth at your site. A full booth might include a Front Page, a Back Wall, Right and Left Sides, plus a page for specials. As an alternative, a lesser fee could provide just a Front Page with a link to their site. Open links to vendors’ company sites in a new window. That way you don’t lose the traffic. Once they close the other window your site is still in the background waiting to be seen again. The information for this article was provided by Dr. Jeanette Cates, an internet strategist who shares her news and views in OnlineSuccessNews.com. Virtual Trade Show Planning
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Utilize a Trade Show Planning Timeline to Maximize Results
Phase 1: 12+ Months? Your Strategy
Identify how you will use trade shows as part of your overall marketing and sales strategy. Develop a budget and your projected return on investment. Research and identify which events you will attend based on target reach and opportunity. Request information from event sponsors, including past attendee counts and vendor participation.
Phase 2: 9 to 12 Months Before Show
Set specific objectives for your show such as number of product sales, leads generated, publicity secured, etc.
Identify your space needs and the type of exhibit, display and promotional items you will need.
Register and reserve your space with the event sponsor and request full details on exhibit requirements.
Develop a trade show marketing plan divided into three sections: 1. Pre-Show Marketing, 2. At-Show Marketing, and 3. Post-Show Marketing.
Phase 3: 6 to 9 Months Before Show
Develop a compelling sales message that gets across the key points you want to communicate at your exhibit in 30 seconds or (preferably) less. You and your staff will need to rehearse this message and use it confidently at your booth to maximize your effectiveness.
Compare exhibit companies based on capabilities, experience, design talent, understanding of your needs, cost and delivery timing. You can also be involved in the booth design process by using web-based exhibition design software to create your own tradeshow booth ideas, as you work with an exhibit producer.
Identify high-impact tradeshow giveaways and promotional strategies you will use to attract visitors to your display area. Determine the literature and marketing materials you will need at the show – and begin design and printing work.
Phase 4: 3 to 6 Months Before Show
Order your giveaways or promotional items.
Continue working with vendors on your display booth, exhibit items, and marketing materials. Confirm delivery dates and adherence to your trade show planning timeline.
Determine staffing requirements, develop booth schedules, and plan training sessions.
Identify how you will ship your display and other items to the show.
Begin making travel arrangements.
Launch pre-show marketing initiatives.
Phase 5: 1 to 3 Months Before Show
Put together follow-up packets to send immediately following the show to your leads.
Continue pre-show marketing activities
Make all travel arrangements.
Schedule staff training.
Contact event sponsor for any last minutes details.
Finalize production of booth display, promotional items, and marketing materials. Confirm shipping date.
Finalize all travel arrangements.
Schedule dinners or other meetings to be held at the show with prospects, distributors and/or customers.
Phase 6: 1 Week Before Show
Complete staff training.
Confirm shipping arrival dates for your booth display, promotional items and materials.
Double check that all action steps on timeline have been covered.
Phase 7 ? Follow-up Activities: 1 Day to 1 Week AFTER Show
Analyze leads, send follow-up packets, and make contact as appropriate.
Evaluate success of trade show participation compared with objectives from your trade show plan.
Review your budget compared to your actual expenses for the show. Determine your return on investment.
Make recommendation whether to participate in the same trade show next year. Include suggested changes, enhancements, and other trade show ideas.Receive multiple estimates for trade show displays at no obligation. Trade-Show-Advisor.com has arranged with nationally recognized BuyerZone.com to provide free price quotes from quality, independent suppliers of trade show exhibit displays. Simply complete the request form below. See articles below for more information on developing a trade show planning timeline and managing for success. Trade Show Planning Information
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Registration Paperwork: Getting it Done
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While virtual trade show technology has been around for a number of years, the market for virtual events saw significant growth, as the global economic downturn forced some physical shows to move online. At the same time, the preference for “green and clean” technologies made virtual events a logical, attractive choice.
In addition to virtual trade shows, a number of additional formats have gained popularity and adoption, including virtual career fairs, virtual sales meetings and virtual partner summits.
Moreoever, a number of pioneering companies are successfully implementing hybrid events that complement a physical trade show with a concurrent virtual event.
Planning and executing a virtual trade show or on-line event is not easy. While it does leverage web technologies, virtual events require the same level of attention and commitment as a physical tradeshow or event.
If you?re considering your first virtual event, keep the following points in mind: Select the right show focus and content ? Similar to a physical event, be sure to select a timely, high-demand trade show that will interest and attract your target audience. Assemble the right team ? The success of a virtual tradeshow depends on the underlying team that maps out the timeline, executes against it and provides an excellent experience to exhibitors and attendees. Leverage colleagues who have produced a virtual event before ? if none have, reach out to expert virtual event providers for assistance. Give yourselves enough lead time ? As with any large scale project, things don?t always progress at the pace you?d like.
Whether it’s deliverables from an exhibitor, graphics from the creative agency or an email list from your marketing department, insert sufficient padding into the timeline. One of the biggest dangers of virtual event execution is the rush job to get to the finish line.Leverage social networks for event promotion and awareness ? Leverage a Facebook fan page, Twitter, a LinkedIn Event posting, a YouTube channel and postings on your corporate blog.
These efforts require your time and effort, but are extremely cost efficient ? and the potential for awareness and buzz to spread via social circles is enormous.Provide adequate training to exhibitors ? Provide a sneak preview day, during which exhibitors (and only exhibitors) can login to the environment, familiarize themselves with navigation and platform features and review the structure and content in their booth. Provide adequate staffing during the event ? Be certain that staffing levels are sufficient to provide attendees with proper amounts of technical and logistical support. In virtual events, the majority of inquiries are more logistical (e.g. where do I go to attend the sessions) rather than technical. Provide on-demand access after the event concludes ? For those who were unable to attend the live event, provide on-demand access, so that visitors can view the sessions and exhibitor booth content. Schedule a post-event de-brief ? Based on your upfront goals and objectives, assemble the team after the event to review your virtual trade show results (against the goals). The key learning points will make your next virtual event even better.
This article was written by virtual tradeshow expert Dennis Shiao, Client Services Executive at InXpo. Prior to InXpo, Mr. Shiao was Director of Product Management and Webcasts at TechTarget and spent several years in information technology management overseeing large scale web and server infrastructure.
Mr. Shiao blogs at InXpo (http://inxpo.wordpress.com) and It’s All Virtual (http://allvirtual.wordpress.com).Trade Show Resources
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Click Here for Trade Show Planning Timeline
Thoughtful, strategic trade show planning is essential to achieving your exhibiting goals and maximizing your return on investment, which includes both your money and time.
The first step in the planning process is to identify productive conferences and events that specifically reach your target audience of potential buyers.
Start the research process by talking with current customers and learn about the events they attend. Then, contact professional organizations and colleagues in your industry for additional suggestions.
Trade show planning directories (print and online) are another valuable resource, as well as your local chamber of commerce and area business associations.
Once you find an event that looks opportunistic, request to review lists of past vendors and attendees, if available from the show sponsor.
Make sure the trade show you select draws the type and number of prospects you want. Other key considerations include geography, timing, cost, and sponsor reputation. During your research process, also consider the benefits of participating in virtual trade shows, in addition to face-to-face events.
Then once you have identified which trade show to attend, develop a detailed plan and tradeshow check lists that includes these steps:Establish Specific Event Objectives? such as number of product sales, leads generated, publicity secured, image and awareness initiatives, etc. Set a Realistic Budget? that includes a projected return on investment Develop a Compelling Sales Message? to use in all tradeshow marketing and sales initiatives, including booth graphics, banners, brochures, advertisements, and sales presentations. Create a Trade Show Marketing Plan? that is divided into three sections: 1. Pre-Show Marketing, 2. At-Show Marketing, and 3. Post-Show Marketing. You?ve got to aggressively pre-sell prospects before they arrive, fully engage them during the show, and promptly follow-up with them after the show to generate additional sales. Create a “WOW” Exhibit? that attracts people and instantly conveys your image and product message. Whether you are interested in custom-designed booths, tabletop displays or rental exhibits, the graphics and lighting must deliver your marketing message with a powerful punch.
In addition, you need to plan for the type of promotions you will have that will draw people to your booth such as interactive demonstrations, contests, giveaways, etc. For more information on trade show booth attractions, click here.Confirm Booth Location in the Exhibition Hall? with the sponsor as part of your trade show planning process. Try to secure a high traffic location at the event. In addition, confirm access to electrical outlets, lighting, and other needs you may have. Print Marketing Materials? including sales literature, product sheets, business cards, and promotional items you will use at and after the show. Train and Schedule Staff? to effectively convey your sales message and ensure your booth is always staffed adequately. Prepare Follow-up Information Packets? so they are ready to immediately use with new leads after the show is over Make Travel Arrangements? to ensure you, your staff, exhibit booth, materials and supplies arrive in plenty of time for the show. Follow-up with Attendees? prioritize your leads and make follow-up contact promptly. Evaluate Trade Show Success? to determine if you met your objectives and identify changes to make in the future. Pop-up Trade Show Displays – ExpoTrade Exhibits
Exhibit specialists with more than 35 years of experience designing professional trade show displays. Offers a wide range of pop-up and tabletop displays to meet the individualized needs of each client. Trade Show and Corporate Event Planning – Dynamic Event Solutions
Provides an extensive array of trade show management and event planning services from start to finish. Dynamic Event Solutions has earned a reputation for providing superior service, creative solutions, inspiring designs, and flawless event execution to clients of all sizes and industries. Tradeshow Participation: A Primer for Success
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