Virtual Trade Shows are Around the Corner

Image courtesy of ON24

This is a guest post by Cece Salomon-Lee. She is the author of PR Meets Marketing blog and senior marketing communications manager with ON24. While her company recently launched a virtual show product, the thoughts expressed in this posting are not representative of ON24 and are personal views of the author.

I recently read Julius’ post about the 5 signs that you event is Web 1.0. Since virtual trade shows are starting to emerge as another technology offering for event planners, I offered to write a post about this. Consider a virtual show as a lighter version of Second Life.

They’re not exactly an immersive 3D environment. Rather it’s like take a webcast to the next level with a mix of social networking, online presentations, and booth staff.
Virtual trade shows seem a natural way to reduce costs while meeting the exceedingly difficult task of generating results with your marketing programs. But ONLY if you go in knowing what to expect.

There are some distinct differences to be aware of if you plan to participate in or plan a virtual show:

Interactions are Different
Whether it’s catching the person’s eye or approaching a person who’s just entered your booth, you can visually determine when and how to approach someone who comes to your booth at a face-to-face (F2F) event. When you’re online, these physical cues are not available. Unlike F2F, you don’t want to start personal chats with everyone who comes to your virtual booth. Rather, most tend to initiate a chat with you first or engage in a group chat at the booth.

“Staff” the Booth
While interactions in the booth are different it’s very important to “staff” the booth. You would never leave a booth empty in between sessions, right? The came applies for “staffing” a virtual booth. The difference is that you’re doing it from a computer. It’s important that designated individuals are monitoring the show during peak work hours, especially when live presentations are being held.

The difference? You’re not stuck staying at the booth for 10-12 hours. Rather, the shifts can be 1 or 2 hours long – as long as SOMEONE is available to answer any questions or chat with attendees. And since it’s online, you can have more than one chat at a time.

The Show Lives On
Most virtual shows have 1-3 days of “live” content. Meaning that webinars or online presentations are happening on a specific day or time. While most people tend to visit the virtual show during this time, remember, all the presentations, booths and documents live on after this initial rush.
No – you don’t have to be in booth staff purgatory forever. It just means you have to be aware that people may drop by the show occasionally. Be sure to update information and/or presentations to reflect what is accurate for your company.

Conclusion
Virtual trade shows won’t be for everyone. However, it is something to consider if you’re faced with limited budget and reduced travel requirements, while bringing together a group of people around a specific topic. Granted, you may not be networking around the golf course, but you can raise a virtual glass in the communications lounge instead!

About The Author
Julius Solaris
Julius Solaris is the editor of EventManagerBlog.com, he is an international speaker, author and consultant.
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Julius Solaris
Editor, Julius Solaris

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