5 Tips for Your Virtual Booth

March 21, 2011

5 Tips for Your Virtual Booth


During the ski season, I spend a lot of time on Interstate 80 in California.  When I’m unfortunate to get stuck in “stop and go” traffic, it makes me realize the effectiveness of highway billboard ads.  At the same time, however, I find that  the majority of ads are poorly done and only a handful truly resonate with me.

I also got to thinking about the similarity between highway billboard ads and the signage in booths at virtual trade shows.  In both cases, the “target audience” is highly transient, moving from one location to another. As on a highway, you may zip right past a sign (or booth) without event noticing it. With foot on the brake pedal, I pondered how the concepts behind effective billboard ads can apply to the design of your virtual booth.

1) It’s not about you.

Advertisers (exhibitors) all too often think in their own terms, when they should be thinking on their audience’s terms.  Remember that prospects don’t care about your product offerings, they care about how to solve their business challenges.  So talk to them about them and not about you.

Jiffy Lube had an effective billboard.  It said, “My time matters.”  Instead of talking at you (i.e. “Your time matters”), they put the advertisement in your own voice.  In doing so, they made it about you, and not about them.

2) Make your audience interpret a bit.

My favorite billboard ad was from ING Direct.  It said, “Drive Safely“.  That’s it!  The vast space of a billboard ad, consumed by two words. My first reaction was, “Thanks!” and my second reaction was, “Hmm, drive safely … and my money is also safe with ING.”  The impact of an ad is enhanced when viewers need to think in order to interpret its message.

3) Eliminate the Gobbledygook.

David Meerman Scott (@dmscott) wrote about The Gobbledygook Manifesto, a set of overused and cliched business terms. While I don’t see much gobbledygook on highway billboards, I see them in virtual booths.  As I mention in point #1, “it’s not about you”, so speak in terms that your audience understands. More often than not, that’s plain English (substitute your local language here).

4) Invite rather than declare.

Unlike a billboard ad where viewers can zoom by at 55 MPH (or higher), a virtual booth’s signage can invite visitors to start a conversation with your company. Rather than declaring your “market leading product” via gobbledygook, invite visitors to speak to you about their business challenges.

Remember, it’s all about their challenges and not about your products.  If your products can help address those challenges, then you may have a sales opportunity. But don’t assume that “everything fits” at the outstart.

5) Less is more.

As Jiffy Lube and ING Direct demonstrated, eloquence is all about short and sweet, not about wordiness.  Twitter taught us to go 140 characters or less – with billboard ads and booth signage, think about 14 characters or less.


Keep some of these principles in mind as you build your next virtual booth.  If your visitors are flying by at 55 MPH, make your booth that highway lookout, where they stop the car, pull over and stay for a while.

Comparing Physical And Virtual Trade Shows

September 16, 2010

At Focus.com, Alex Gonzalez posed a question about the pros and cons of physical and virtual trade shows.

I’d like to share an insightful answer posted by Steve Gogolak, Director of Solutions Innovation at Cramer.

Pros/Cons as an attendee

Travel – the convenience of not having to travel is great for the participant. What’s even better is being able to invite a colleague who may be interested despite not having any intentions to visit the event. It’s the “hey, Jerry would really want to see this” moment realized.

Experience – this is highly dependent on the effort put forth by the booth owner. A lot of booths fall flat in a virtual world, but the same is true in the real world. If an exhibitor understands how to use the features within the booth well, it will make for a good experience. The use of self-directed video is a great example here. The more an attendee browses through video, the more fulfilling the experience. Chat is functional and generally gets the basics across, but will not be comparable to an in-person experience until two-way video is an option.

Privacy – browsing privately is much less intimidating online than in-person. The biggest opportunity an exhibitor has with a visitor is in the attract loop. In a virtual booth, the visitor can be presented with a finite “pitch” regarding what the booth is about. They remain captive for 30-60 seconds as the watch the video, which is effectively qualifying them as a lead (if they bolt, they weren’t interested anyway). It’s hard to stand in a physical trade show booth for a minute and not be bombarded by sales people.

Pros/Cons as an exhibitor

Cost – oh where to begin. A smart exhibitor will shift funds away from travel, employee time and expensive scenery to content production. More content that is suited specifically for a virtual booth is what the best exhibitors will focus on.

Reporting – this has already been mentioned, but near-real-time data about who is in your booth, who has visited and what they did is readily available. Similar results can be achieved in the real world with RFID systems, but the cost is near prohibitive for all but the largest companies. The data that emerges from a virtual booth can keep your sales team busy for weeks worth of follow up.

Commitment – I haven’t seen that many exhibitors really commit the time to understanding what they are doing in side of a virtual booth. They need to see it as a mini-website. An extension of their online presence, targeted for the specific audience that is attending the event in question. The reality is that 95% of the time commitment is spend in content development since the actual tools to “build” the booth are so darned easy to use. In my opinion, the limiting factor is always the content, not the technology.

Re-purpose existing content from other marketing initiatives. As Dennis mentioned, you’re online… so use the assets you already have available and treat the booth as a traffic driver, feeding highly-qualified traffic into your other marketing nets.

View the original Focus.com discussion here:


About Steve Gogolak

Marketing & Communication is my passion because I love to tell stories. I love to see the look on someone’s face when I’ve hit a chord that resonates with their needs, wants and desires.

Marketing is changing. It is moving further and further away from the “blah blah blah” of a bullhorn in the hands of large companies with big budgets and more toward the targeted messages and subsequent conversations between real people and real buyers. In short, marketing is “getting real” in a big way. What does that mean? It means that companies with remarkable products and services that demonstrate remarkable passion for their buyers’ needs will succeed more quickly – and those who rely on bullhorn-style marketing to force feed their buyers will not.

I’m passionate about marketing because real stories told by real people sell – fast and frequently. I tell stories and I help my clients tell theirs every day.

5 Tips For A Successful Virtual Trade Show

June 22, 2010

The following is a guest post from Craig Rosenberg.

On the 29th of June from 8AM to 4PM Pacific, I’ll be running my first virtual trade show: Mastering Lead Management.  At Focus, the company I work for, we’ve been doing webinars for our clients for years. But this virtual event is our first day-long comprehensive show.  To differentiate and make it as successful as possible, there were a few critical decisions we made during the show’s development:

We called it an interactive summit — To us, a virtual trade show or trades hows in general give the impression of a vendor bazaar where everyone’s main goal of the event is to get buyers introduced to vendors. Buyers expect more.

We leveraged all unbiased, third party content (no vendor pitches) — We have sponsors, but our approach to any content we create is all about making it “buyer-helpful,” that is, information that helps buyers do their jobs better or make more informed purchasing decisions.

We gave all sponsors full booth functionality — Instead of worrying about creating different pricing schemes for different features in the booth, we gave everyone everything we could.

    We think these decisions are at least in part the reason why we’ve garnered thousands of registrants to the event so far. Based on what I’ve learned and past experience with all kinds of trade shows, here are my 5 tips for successful virtual trade shows:

    1. It’s all about the content, it’s always about the content – All the blog posts and marketing we find today about virtual events is about minimizing environmental impact, shrinking travel budgets, etc.  While I think these points are interesting, we believe that if the content is compelling, they will come.  Think about it, despite all the marketing we are producing about people avoiding live events, they go and they go because they see value.  White papers, webinars, you name it, they all still work. But it’s about the content. Why would virtual events be different?  The answer is they are not.
    2. It’s all about the variety and volume of content – A virtual summit gives you multiple opportunities to peak a buyers interest with all kinds of content.  In a white paper or a webinar, it’s a one-shot deal.
    3. Content drives the types of leads you get – The biggest factor for the future of the virtual trade show market is ROI.  I can tell you that if you try to be something for everyone, then that’s what you’ll get.  Guess what, that is the problem with the traditional trade show market.  For successful lead generation, I’d suggest creating more targeted content and be prepared for less numbers.
    4. Virtual events are scoring machines – From a lead management perspective, virtual shows provide amazing activity data on attendees.  There is a lot of content available to participants and a lot of opportunities for interactivity. All of this should be collected and sent to whomever cares, such as sponsors.
    5. Understand why trade shows don’t work – This is a bit of a “reset” of the points above, but trade show attendance isn’t only down because of shrinking travel budgets. Trade shows are down because buyers have A LOT of choices for content to do their job better.  15 years ago, trade shows had a pretty solid hold on information. Now with the internet, information is everywhere without the time and resource commitments that make it harder for live trade shows to compete. What can you learn?  Well, people aren’t going to come to your event just because your show is virtual (and you don’t want them to), they are going to come because they see value.

    Craig Rosenberg is Author of The Funnelholic, his very popular B2B sales and marketing blog. He is also Vice President of Products and Services at Focus where he oversees product creation, management, and delivery. Prior to Focus, Craig spent years as a consultant for SalesRamp where he designed, built and managed lead-generation and inside sales strategies and processes for high-tech startups.

    During that time, Craig built lead generation machines at over 25 different companies in a variety of different high-tech verticals ranging from business applications to IT infrastructure. Because of his extensive experience, Craig acts as an advisor to Focus‘s clients, helping them solve a variety of different marketing and demand-generation challenges  You can visit Craig’s B2B Demand Generation Blog at www.funnelholic.com.

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