Going Virtual: How Your Brand Can Make a Successful Transition to Virtual Trade Shows - Signal Theory
people using virtual meet technology illustration

By Lacey Fielder, associate director of public relations and Chase Fortune, content strategist

Trade Shows in a Post-Pandemic World

As the pandemic continues to play out across the United States, businesses – and even entire industries – are shifting plans to minimize loss and continue business as usual. Trade shows and industry conferences are being especially impacted by COVID-19. During this unprecedented time, conference hosts are confronted with difficult decisions, such as whether to cancel events, postpone them or embrace the ambiguous alternative of going virtual.

For many companies, trade shows and conferences make up a significant portion of their yearly B2B marketing efforts, networking opportunities and – in many cases – even revenue. In fact, 55% of U.S. small- and medium-size businesses describe trade shows as their most valuable source for new B2B customers, according to a recent survey. For those reasons, opting out of attendance is simply not an option. That’s where we come in. Signal Theory is here to help navigate these uncharted waters, not just by providing support, but by executing unique digital experiences.

While virtual trade shows may sound like a temporary fix, there is growing evidence that they may be here to stay in a post-COVID world. No matter the industry, key decisions often come down to the bottom line. And while in-person events have obvious benefits, the associated fixed and variable costs can add up quickly. Many businesses currently making the transition to a virtual format are seeing benefits, especially when it comes to lower overhead costs. Because of this and other reasons, the virtual trade show may become a new trend in the world of networking for the foreseeable future.

3 Very Real Benefits of Going Virtual

Many companies are already working overtime, so learning an entirely new trade show format may sound overwhelming. But going virtual has clear advantages. These benefits can make the extra work pay off.

Lower overhead costs

A virtual environment cuts down on travel costs, event expenditures and accessibility concerns.

  1. This can potentially reduce the price of admission and let conference organizers instead invest in speakers and other digital opportunities, making content the top priority.
  2. More flexibility in conference presence allows sponsors to select from a range of completely branded virtual conference experiences.

Increased digital exposure and lead generation

Going virtual doesn’t have to mean fewer customer interactions. It could potentially increase your company footprint and customer insights.

  1. A virtual trade show grows engagement from a few key attendees to thousands of people across the globe. This allows exhibitors to reach audiences they otherwise wouldn’t have.
  2. More digital means more data. Virtual trade shows allow for more lead generation data, with more insight into customer profiles.
  3. Unique digital-focused sponsorship packages can help exhibitors go far beyond elevator signage or aisle banners.

Thinking outside the booth

Going virtual makes the constraints of booth space a thing of the past. Instead, your company can offer customized virtual trade show experiences that better align with your lead-generation strategies.

  1. On-demand content allows attendees to view content at their own convenience. Instead of adhering to strict conference schedules, attendees can build their own experience based on what content is most relevant to them.
  2. Trade shows are notorious for the amount of printed literature that gets handed out. But now, more information is just a click away. Companies can direct attendees to various online educational content and digital tools for continued learning.
  3. Unique brand interactions can be built into creative digital booth experiences. Brands can incorporate virtual reality components, chat rooms for real-time conversations or downloadable tools and resources.

Slight Strategy Shift

Going virtual doesn’t mean totally starting from scratch when it comes to your trade show strategy. However, an audit of available digital assets may be beneficial to determine capabilities. It’s important to first understand the value of the in-person show and then discuss how that can be best replicated in the virtual format. For example, advertising online does not mean taking a print ad and throwing it up on a website. It’s necessary to adjust the strategy and creative to meet the needs of the medium and intended audience. Similarly, virtual trade shows require a customized approach to fit the medium and stay relevant.

Our Simple Guide to Going Virtual

Pandemic or not, the trend is becoming clear – virtual trade shows are not only a quickly growing trend but a viable option for businesses going forward as telecommunication technologies advance and budgets remain stringent. And while virtual formats offer an entirely new range of opportunities, they also represent a relatively new landscape that requires a shift in strategy, planning, marketing materials and digital assets, among other considerations.
Future-proof your brand for tomorrow’s virtual show and get ahead of the curve – download our free guide to virtual trade shows that outlines just what your team needs to successfully navigate its first virtual event.

Download Guide

Click here to learn more about Signal Theory and our work, or here to contact our team to learn how we can help support your efforts.

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