How to Take Advantage of the Fast Pace of a Virtual Tradeshow

Online trade shows and similar events have become quite popular in the last few years.

Before diving in, ISVs need to understand that they are much different than in-person trade shows, and should therefore be treated as such. For example, it’s essential to realize that attendees can quickly navigate a virtual trade show with their mouse, and thus accomplish much more, in a shorter period time, than they can at an in-person trade show. With that in mind, sponsors need to employ different tactics than for in-person trade shows, so as to create brand awareness, deliver a powerful message, and generate targeted sales leads. has run five “Decisions” virtual trade shows, and we’ve had the opportunity to gather important data, and speak with many different sponsors, about the key tactics they’ve used to have a successful event.

1. Prepare your team

The tools available to communicate with attendees and measure performance are very powerful. You need to educate your “on-site” staff by familiarizing them with all the tools that they have at their disposal. It’s important to get everyone who will work at your booth as comfortable as possible with how these tools work. Do they know how to use the instant messenger feature to communicate with attendees? Do they know how to exchange vCards (virtual business cards)? Send emails through the virtual environment? Check the data portal to see who’s visited their booth? Every booth staff member should know how to use these tools.

2. Have the right combination of staff at your booth

Staffing an online trade show requires serious attention. Because so much occurs in a brief period of time, it’s important that the interactions be well considered. Many successful exhibitors have at least two people staffing their booth at all times. One of these people is on the technical side of the business, while the second is a salesperson. Using this combination of booth staff will ensure that all product questions can be quickly and appropriately answered.

3. Make sure you have the right booth materials

Post relevant, educational, and thought-leadership-focused content to your booth. Have a combination of strategy-focused (non-self-promotional) white papers, customer case studies, product brochures, and demo videos. Attendees should have the sense that you are a well-rounded organization that not only offers solutions that can fill their need, but can also provide the expertise and guidance they are lacking as well.

4. Follow up promptly with attendees

One of the great advantages of sponsoring a virtual trade show is that you can follow up with attendees immediately after they visit your booth. One tactic that works well is having a third booth staff member present, whose sole responsibility is checking your company’s data portal every 15 – 20 minutes so as to grab the contact info for booth visitors. This person can then pass off the contact info to the salesperson staffing the booth, who in turn can quickly follow up with the people he or she wasn’t able to chat with.

5. Keep attendees coming back to your booth.

Entice people to come to your booth more than once. Do this by encouraging your booth visitors to enter a contest or raffle for a prize, which will draw them back to the raffle. Prizes can include anything from iPads, XBOX 360’s, Kindles, and gift cards, or even a free trial of one of your solutions.

If you choose to give a presentation at the event, the live Q&A can be held in your booth. This is a great way to not only generate more leads, but get attendees back in your booth to speak with the “expert” who just gave that great presentation.

Online trade shows happen at a much quicker pace than in-person trade shows. That means sales leads are produce more quickly, and can be followed up with immediately, potentially leading to a shortened sales cycle.

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