Navigating the new digital trade show space

Comfortable shoes not required: navigating the new digital trade show space

Among the many things 2020 turned on its head, in-person meetings and events were hit hard. Important business opportunities were watered down to Zoom calls where associates tried their best to keep engaged and crossed their fingers their kids or pets didn’t interrupt the conversation.

Large-scale gatherings like trade shows were even more challenging to replicate. Associations scrambled to shift hundreds of thousands of square feet of company booths, products and conversations to an online forum that was engaging, interactive and worthwhile. Many lost money in the process. Some shows didn’t have the time to think through a shift and simply cancelled their proceedings outright.

But as 2021 gets underway, we now have months of trial and error under our belts to learn from and get the most of digital experiences moving forward.

We had the opportunity to attend a few online trade shows—that we’ve experienced in person in the past—and learned a lot along the way. Here are a few key takeaways:

Control what you can control. Some associations will be better than others when it comes to virtual shows. CES 2021, for example, had exceptional technology and presenters bring the CES experience into each attendee’s home at a very reasonable ticket price. Other shows we attended simply didn’t have the resources to create quite as interactive and engaging a space online.

The lesson here: Take control and leverage your own resources to make a splash. If the event platform is lacking, create your own landing page with relevant resources, share your news on social and set up video calls for media appointments. You may not be able to control how successful the show as a whole is, but you can certainly make your company stand out in it.

Leverage video. Video is your friend with virtual events. Encourage your sales team to use it for customer conversations, record SMEs talking about industry hot topics, even dabble with the live features on social channels. In-person conversation can’t be replaced, but most people will watch a video over reading a press release. Zoom and Microsoft Teams both have easy-to-use recording functions—experiment with them ahead of the show, and leverage video wherever you can.

Get social. Now more than ever before, joining the conversation on social is important. Keep an eye on any event hashtags, help your organization’s experts push content out during the show and don’t be afraid to engage in online conversations. Having your name alongside the others who are talking about relevant topics will increase your visibility beyond the event platform.

Share insights. A lot of the virtual trade shows keep presentation recordings available well beyond the show dates. Take advantage of the additional time to virtually attend sessions, capture insights and share them out via a content piece to your customers and internal stakeholders. You no longer have to run from session to session while skipping lunch. Nor, for that matter, will you need to speedily devour a chicken sandwich in a storage room between meetings. We speak from experience. With digital events, the resources are at your fingertips on demand.

I think we’re all looking forward to a day when we can come back together for in-person meetings, have a cocktail and toast to a successful trade show. But until then, take advantage of the time you can sit in your sweats at your leisure and learn what’s happening in the industry. We’ll be back at it (hopefully) soon enough.

Ready to take your next event online? We can help you evaluate if a virtual event is the right step for you. Learn more at: