How to recreate an offline trade show experience, online

Online trade shows can be an incredibly valuable tool for securing qualified leads. But, if you want your virtual booth to stand out from the crowd, you’ll need to plan your strategy carefully.

Holly Martin, Marketing Assistant, from branded promotional product experts EverythingBranded, shares some tips for recreating the offline trade show experience, online. 

Ever since the pandemic put a stop to large gatherings, traditional in-person trade events with hundreds or even thousands of attendees are now out of the question.

As a result, more and more entrepreneurs and small business owners are starting to take advantage of online trade shows and conventions to showcase their brands. And while that’s great for increasing attendance at these events, it does mean that there can be a lot of pressure on exhibitors when it comes to making their booths stand out. 

If you haven’t attended many online shows before, you might be wondering how to go about this. In this article, I’ve shared my tips for getting your brand out there at your next online trade show, so you can generate new leads and make new contacts.  

Design your virtual booth 

At a traditional trade show, you’d no doubt spend a lot of time preparing your booth to make sure it looks fantastic and is true to your branding, using plenty of eye-catching signage, banners, and displays. Of course, at a virtual show, you won’t need these physical props. But there will still be plenty of opportunities to customise your booth, so be sure to take advantage of these. 

You always want to put your best foot forward, as this will help you to attract the most attendees. You can do this by offering a variety of resources, tools, videos, and downloadable information packs.

This will show that you’re knowledgeable and well-informed about your particular specialism and will encourage any visitors who stop by your virtual stand to sign up for more. Make sure that any material you offer is consistent with your business’ branding, as this will help make sure you look professional. 

Drive leads with freebies 

Just because you’re not going to be seeing attendees in person doesn’t mean you can’t tempt them into signing up using a few promotional freebies. Even at an online event, you’ll likely find that people are just as keen on getting some free goodies as they are at face-to-face trade shows. So, try to find some creative ways to incentivise attendees into visiting your booth. 

For example, you could offer discounts, or access to educational booklets, info packs, or exclusive video content when attendees sign up to your mailing list.

While it can cost a bit more to implement, you could also look at sending out some physical freebies, like a branded tote bag filled with print media and maybe a few other on-brand goodies or free samples. This can be a very effective way to turn those casual visitors into valuable leads.  

Take advantage of tools for online networking 

Many trade show hosting platforms will offer exhibitors different features and tools to help recreate the face-to-face networking encounters they might get at an offline trade show. So, you’ll definitely want to make sure you’re utilising every tool in the best possible way. 

Start by taking the time to research the host site’s features before the event. For instance, will you be able to video chat with attendees who visit your booth, or can you schedule webinars, educational sessions, or one-on-one meetings with potential leads in advance?

Are there any opportunities to carry out live product demos, or to host product showcases? Check out all of the features that the hosting platform has to offer, and then design a strategy that will allow you to use them effectively. 

Promote your booth ahead of the show 

Make a concerted effort to drum up interest in your brand and your booth before the trade show has started.

With an online trade show, attendees aren’t able to wander through a physical show floor in the same way, which can make it harder to attract their attention. This means it’s especially important to pique their interest and offer incentives to visit your booth ahead of time.  

There are lots of ways to do this: you can create a blog post that offers a preview of your trade show content, and then publicise this using your mailing list and social media channels.

The aim is the get your brand and the details of your booth in front of as many qualified leads as possible, so try to think strategically about the sort of attendees you want to target, and work from there. Are they more likely to be using LinkedIn or Twitter? Would they be interested in a video preview, or another form of content? 

You can also look at avenues the event organiser might offer for promoting your booth. For example, you might be able to promote your logo and booth on the event website, or as part of an agenda, schedule, or guide they put together ahead of the event.

It may be worth reaching out and trying to secure some coverage on their social media channels, too. If you have the budget, you could also look at sponsoring a spot on their mailing list or blog, which will give you a valuable opportunity to advertise your booth in more detail. 

Online trade shows can offer a valuable opportunity for networking and securing new leads. Take these tips on board, and you should be able to replicate the experience of an offline show at your next event. 

Photo by Patrick Tomasso