Virtual Tradeshow Best Practices: Top 10 Exhibitor Tactics

At b-to-b virtual tradeshows (VTS), exhibitors compete for the attention and interest of the attendees.  And many times, the competition for attention occurs “against” the competitors of your business.  Thus, it’s even more important to make your mark, which places an onus on exhibitors to leverage new and creative ways to generate interest.  Here are Top 10 Exhibitor Tactics that I’ve observed while working with virtual tradeshow exhibitors.

  1. Set up a (physical) war room – it seems a bit contradictory, given that you’re exhibiting virtually, but if it’s practical to gather in a single location (physically), you’ll be more effective and coordinated.  As visitors pour into your booth and engage with you, it will be easy to shout aloud, “I’ll take this one” and have everyone immediately know what you’re referring to.  In addition, being together physically creates a buzz as the event goes on – you’ll hear cheers, shouts, jeers, etc. as activities unfold throughout the day.  I’ve participated in one and it does help with coordination and build camraderie.  Short of a physical gathering, another option is to keep a telephone conference bridge active throughout the day to coordinate activities.
  2. Send product experts into the Networking Lounge – you need to solicit your subject matter experts to participate in the virtual tradeshow in the first place.  And believe me, their presence will be worth it.  Send them into the lounge to soak in all the discussion – and encourage them to chime in.  The idea here is to demonstrate thought leadership and generate “organic interest” in your company and your company’s booth.  During one event I attended, an expert’s presence in the Lounge generated interest from an industry analyst, who set up a follow-up meeting (with the expert’s company) to further discuss their products and services.
  3. Leverage a compelling booth welcome – always make a good first impression for that first-time visitor.  Create a Flash video for your booth’s “front screen” that’s unique to the VTS – or, have your CTO or CEO (via greenscreen video) greet visitors with a short video welcome.
  4. Ad-hoc prize giveaways – drop a surprise on attendees and let them know that you’re giving away prizes in your booth.  Got leftover giveaways from a physical event?  Distribute that excess inventory to your virtual event visitors.  Draw them into the Group Chat in your booth and ask them to answer questions posted there (about your products and services)  in order to win.  You’ll end up not just with some happy booth visitors – but you’ll also have educated others who observed the group chat.
  5. Be practical with booth displays – if you have scheduled chats occuring in your booth – or, if you have distinguished experts staffing your booth, let visitors know!  How about an animated image that displays in the front screen of your booth, which rotates through the miscellaneous activites scheduled there that day.  Sometimes, the simplest and most practical approach is the most effective.
  6. Staff your booth with your product experts – for those experts that you send into the Networking Lounge – be sure they’re available to interact with your booth visitors as well.  When your expert has won over the respect of an attendee, then that attendee becomes more comfortable with your company’s products and services.  I’ve witnessed a few experts field requests for pricing information or a follow-up sales call.  While that’s best handled by a salesperson, it clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of having your products experts in your booth.  Another observation: if your experts are having engaging interactions with booth visitors, their presence will encourage repeat visits.
  7. Invite your company executives to participate – a virtual tradeshow affords your company executives with an easy and convenient way to connect directly with customers and prospects.  The attendees find the interactions engaging, as it’s not often they have direct access to your executives.  Additionally, your executives gain further appreciation of the virtual event via their first hand participation, which makes budget approvals quicker for subsequent events.
  8. Got extra books?  Give them away as prizes – first, you need to find the right book for the particular audience – one that will generate strong demand.  Then, by giving away a large number of them (50, 100, etc.), you generate interest because of the likelihood of winning one.  One event I attended awarded a free book to the first 100 booth visitors.  The particular book was authored by an industry expert whom all attendees were familiar with.  The first 100 visits occurred within minutes of the opening of the event!  Later in the day, visitors will still coming into the booth, asking if the book was still available.
  9. Functional avatar images – some exhibitors select their avatar image from the event platform’s image library.  Others upload a picture of themselves.  One exhibitor went a different route and created custom images that denoted the functional expertise of each exhibitor. The image had the company logo as a background, with text overlaid on top (e.g. “Product Expert”, “Integration Expert”, etc.).  Since attendees can determine your functional domain (by your avatar), they can immediately determine whether to interact with you.
  10. Use a “call to action” image in the final slide of a Live Webcast – want viewers to visit your booth at the conclusion of your Live Webcast?  Make your closing slide an image of the virtual environment, with a big arrow pointing to your booth’s location on the Exhibit Hall.  Title the slide, “Got more questions?  Visit our booth”.

So there you have it.  Try some of these tactics at your next virtual tradeshow and let me know how it goes!

4 Responses to Virtual Tradeshow Best Practices: Top 10 Exhibitor Tactics

  1. […] to convene in a single physical location while supporting the event.  As I wrote in a posting on Virtual Tradeshow Best Practices, it’s a good idea to set up a virtual event war room – or, what I prefer to call a […]

  2. […] Best Practices for Virtual Tradeshow Exhibitors […]

  3. Dwayne Cox says:

    Some very solid tips and a very impressive blog. I think you should place it on a separate domain as you have a lot to offer when it comes to virtual trade shows.

  4. Dennis Shiao says:

    Thanks, Dwayne – I’ll get a separate domain one of these days – I first need to consider the SEO implications 😉

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