Virtual Trade Shows: Are They Here To Stay? The Ultimate Guide

virtual headgear in front laptop

Trade shows are a key marketing tool for many businesses across every industry. Creating professional bonds and finding valuable brand partners drives their participation, with many flying across the U.S. and the world to attend shows that help them further their goals. But with restrictions on gatherings on the rise recently, these trade shows have gone virtual.

Virtual trade shows have certainly simplified attendance for many, eliminating the hassle of travel and offering tickets at lower price points. But are virtual trade shows the “new normal?”

What are virtual trade shows?

Virtual trade shows are alternatives to the typical in-person event. These virtual trade shows are hosted online in a 2D or 3D environment, giving event attendees a unique user experience where they can “walk through” a trade show, visit booths, chat with representatives, and network with other attendees. Live chats, webinars, sales on e-commerce platforms, and virtual shows and games are among the many virtual trade show tools used.

The interest in — and demand for — virtual trade shows is huge due to its widely accessible technology. Prospective customers from all over can log on from the comfort of their own home. With recent restrictions on in-person gatherings, hosts and exhibitors who may never have considered doing a virtual trade show before are now learning the ins and outs of creating a successful booth online. 

How do virtual trade shows work?

Professional event organizers utilize software and technology to put together a virtual trade show. Here are some ways your company can put this kind of show to work to help you close a deal:

Custom booth designs: Your booth is an experience in itself. Take advantage of this digital platform by including .gifs, downloadable flyers, banners and other materials that give information about your brand and products. These custom booths can include a theme along with visually compelling images. Your employees can “staff” the booth and interact with attendees and answer their questions.

Interaction tools: Some virtual trade shows utilize video, while others have live chat tools for talking with company representatives and attendees. These tools can help to maximize interaction and engagement by allowing one-on-one communication with prospective customers. These tools help attendees feel like they’re talking to a human instead of staring into a computer screen. 

Pop-up event announcements: To further grab your audience’s attention, use pop-up event announcements to keep everyone up to date on your booth activities. Attendees can get notifications on when you go live with a webinar, when you’re running a giveaway, session times, and more. Live webinars: Invite industry specialists and keynote speakers to your virtual booth for extra insights — and more eyes on your virtual booth. Being virtual takes away the issues of time differences, locations, travel, and availability for these speakers, making it easier for in-demand speakers to attend.

Few Ideas to Help Plan Virtual Trade Show

Virtual games: Just like in person trade shows, you want to provide entertainment for attendees to keep them at your booth. And contrary to popular belief, you can offer virtual games at your booth! Select games that allow your attendees to feel like they’re part of the action without being there in person.

Sales: Think of the accessibility of your booth from the customer’s perspective. How can you make purchasing your products or services as simple as possible? Consider embedding a link to your online store to make the sale just a click away. You even have the opportunity to send out your link in online chats and games for more sales traffic. 

Real time data: Keep an eye on the metrics for detailed reports on how your booth is performing. These analytics can help provide you with important insights into what is working and what isn’t. Monitor this data to get the most out of your virtual booth. 

Are virtual trade shows here to stay?

Virtual events have existed in some form for years, whether fully online or as a hybrid event. However, virtual trade shows are now in hyperdrive, with limitations on in-person gatherings in 2020 and possibly into 2021 as well.

Even with all the hype and excitement around virtual trade shows, they are still slow to be fully embraced. A 2020 survey of sales professionals conducted by Tradeshow Logic found that 54 percent of organizations did not participate in virtual trade shows in the last 12 months, while 45 percent aren’t planning on participating in the next 12 months. For the 46 percent of respondents that participated in a virtual trade show, 43 percent don’t plan to do it again. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents found that virtual networking events failed to meet their expectations, and nearly half (46 percent) left the event without any leads.

While virtual events are a sign of adaptation, developing relationships was still a major concern for companies. The Tradeshow Logic survey found among those preparing to exhibit that “true personal connection and networking” was one of the biggest anticipated challenges. Furthermore, some expressed concern that the “touch and feel” necessary to experience new products is crucial.

While virtual trade shows are clearly a part of the landscape — and likely a permanent part of the future of trade shows — it seems that attendees and businesses alike want to get back to hand-shaking and coffee-grabbing. Until that time comes, however, it’s important that businesses use the tools at their disposal in the meantime to make the most out of this virtual situation, trade show games included.

Ultimate Planning Guide for Virtual Trade Shows

Virtual trade show game ideas

While your attendees may not be able to toss a football, they can still participate in a virtual trade show game that elevates your booth, encourages participation, and yes, even sends your attendees home with great prizes. Check out these games for some fun ideas: 

  • Spin a prize wheel for your visitor: During live webinars or one-on-one video chats, you can spin a prize wheel for their chance to win. 
  • Get in a money booth for your visitor: Virtual event attendees will get a kick out of watching you step into the money booth (sometimes called a cash blowing machine or cash cube). You may be doing the work, but your visitor reaps the benefits: Put coupons, vouchers, or other exciting paper prizes in the money booth and get to work. Drive the message home even more by customizing the money booth with your branding.
  • Gift digital prizes: Even if your attendees aren’t physically holding anything, they’ll be thrilled to win a prize. Giving away digital items like gift cards or certificates makes it easy to share the fun with attendees.
Ultimate Guilde to Help in Planning Virtual Trade Show

Safety tips for in person events

Even with the rise of virtual events, there are still in-person networking meetings and gatherings taking place. If you’re participating in an in-person event, there are steps you can take to minimize the spread of germs. Follow these tips for the best outcome:

Individually wrap giveaways: To prevent guests from continuously touching the same items, consider individually wrapping giveaways and prizes. Event attendees will easily be able to pick up the one gift they won without touching anything else. 

Offer hand sanitizer: Provide hand sanitizing stations for your guests to use before and after playing games or touching any informational materials and products. Keep these stations easily accessible for all attendees. 

Rent more than one game for guest entertainment: Renting multiple machines allows you to space games apart to allow for proper social distancing to take place. When searching for the perfect arcade game rentals, consider ones that are single player such as upright arcade game Pac Man, or ones that allow for players to stand apart, like air-hockey tables, shuffleboard or skee ball machines. 

Put up friendly social distancing reminder signs: While guests mingle, play games, and read about your brand, it can be easy to forget to keep at your distance.

Follow all local health board guidelines and event organizer guidelines: For more information regarding helpful info and event hosting information, check out the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and tips. Before any event, check with local health authorities or the trade show organizers.

Whether in-person or virtual, make your trade show stand out with Phoenix Amusements

Even if your chosen trade show is totally online, in-person, or a hybrid, attendees are eager to get back to business. Trade show games bring virtual and physical spaces alike to the next level, bringing attendees to your booth while introducing your products and services to new audiences. If you are participating in virtual or physical events and aren’t sure how to get started, contact Phoenix Amusements today- we can help you bring your vision to life and make your booth memorable and fun.