Ideas to Boost Your Virtual Trade Show Engagement
Virtual Trade Shows share many of the hallmarks of a brick and mortar trade show, such as ample opportunity to converse and access to information such as white papers, case studies, Webinars and demos. In some ways they have a competitive edge: because they’re online, they’re eminently “track-able” (you know not only who came by your booth but exactly what they were interested in), and that makes it easier to engage with leads from the trade show based on their interests. On the other hand, virtual shows lack the face-to-face connection of a live trade show and the cocktails.
If your organization is considering or has committed to hosting a virtual trade show, following are tactical ideas we’ve come across, after hosting virtual trade shows for the past 14 years, to make the investment pay off. By the way, not every platform will allow you to use every creative idea you have so do your homework beyond the brochure.
1. Organize content by persona, not by presentation type. Most virtual trade show booth tabs are organized by generic buckets—there’s a tab for “About Us,” a tab for “Webcasts,” a tab for “White Papers.” But you don’t necessarily have to organize your booth that way. HPE, for example, organized their content windows by buyer persona. The booth includes content windows for each practice area; Advisory, Foundation, Data Center Care, etc. Booth visitors knew exactly where to go for information most relevant to their issues. You could also organize by topic, pain point or motivator.
Doing this effectively requires that you’ve gone through some kind of persona development exercise so you understand what kinds of information your attendees will react to the most.
If your goal for the event/booth is to simply push products, ditch the text signs altogether and use product images. Bona Flooring hosted a trade show for stores and buyers. They included product images that were “clickable”. Clicking on a product image opened a pop up window directly to the e-commerce page on Bona’s website where the attendee could get more information and place and order.
2. Instead of including a “Resource Center” location, change it to something more compelling like “Media Center” or “Video Wall”. SonicWall created a simple yet very effective room labeled “Video Wall” which included images of various products that linked to short videos.
3. Give your attendees access to Sr. Management. Many CEO’s and Sr. Management staff are hesitant to attend brick and mortar conferences because they may get inundated by attendees. A Virtual Trade Show, on the other hand, allows a great way for Sr. Management to engage with attendees right from their office. The Communique virtual conference platform offers an option where you can allow or disallow access to content or entire locations by category. For example, some clients set up so that only VIP clients, prospects and partners can access the “Executive Lounge”. This is a tremendous way to increase engagement.
4. Add a “Break-out Room” location where attendees can engage with experts and collaborate together on different topics. SCORE hosted a conference, in conjunction with the Small Business Administration, which included a break out room location. Here attendees can learn and collaborate with each other on various topics.
5. Add a help desk location as a single point of contact for attendees to get assistance and find answers. The help desk room can be as simple as a single chat window for help or a more robust help desk room with signs arranged by topic or need. QuickBooks hosts a virtual conference several times a year to train users on their products. This includes earning critical CPE credits. They studied the most frequent support requests over the years to now include a very robust help desk room with links to support grouped by several categories.
6. Set up games and prizes to add an element of fun, while also driving attendee behavior. You also do not need to wait until the conference is over to give away prizes. Award prizes every hour to create excitement throughout the virtual conference. Announce winners through push messages as well as chat forums.
7. Add signs with clear calls-to-action, driving more engagement and enabling immediate follow-up.
8. Integrate Twitter or other social media sharing within the virtual conference to help spread-the-word.
9. Pick a style and design theme that matches your organizations brand and culture. Office lobby’s are great for many corporate events, however, if your a non-profit hosting a virtual trade show to connect family members, an office lobby may not convey the mission and vision of the conference. Cystic Fibrosis hosts their annual BreathCon virtual event as a way to bring the CF community together and as a forum for members to share stories. CF wanted a relaxed event of personal nature. CF chose a beach theme with a bonefire, volleyball courts and beach hut. This set tone for the entire event. Even the star fish were clickable to earn prizes. Instead of the typical “help desk” location, the room was labeled “Life Raft”.
For lead generation events, let the buyer drive your follow-up plan. Your virtual trade show participation is going to give you a range of leads with varying levels of engagement with your company. If you’re planning to communicate with every single contact with the same exact message and call to action, you’re missing a big opportunity. Shouldn’t prospects who are in your sweet spot in terms of their profile, and have shown interest by chatting with your team and downloading a lot of material, be treated differently than registrants who never even visited your booth? Make sure to tailor your messaging using the incredible data that virtual trade shows provide.