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 Virtual Trade Show Planning
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