Virtual trade show

The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Virtual Trade Show for Success

One thing that has become clear over the past year- almost any event can go virtual, and often, with even better results. Virtual trade shows are proof, enhancing all the areas that make live trade shows so effective: networking, product education, and lead generation

Ready to learn how to thrive in the virtual trade show arena? Read on to learn more!

What is a Virtual Trade Show

A virtual trade show is a 3D, digital replication of a live trade show, presented on a virtual event platform that offers the virtual equivalent of an exhibit hall, a show floor, exhibitor booths, and meeting spaces. Virtual trade shows can include additional activities typical of live trade shows, such as informational sessions, speaker engagements, happy hours, and similar networking opportunities.

A virtual trade show is a place for exhibitors to network with attendees and share brand information, product demos, and all other relevant resources to educate, assist and ultimately convert event attendees. 

Benefits of Virtual Trade Shows

Virtual trade shows are becoming increasingly popular for various reasons. Online trade shows benefit both exhibitors and attendees in new and exciting ways with countless opportunities to maximize the experience. Here are a few:

Reach a Greater Audience

Virtual trade shows mean no travel, lower registration fees, and fewer scheduling conflicts, opening up access to people all over the world and significantly increasing attendance rates. In fact, online events typically receive 8 to 10x more participants than live events, which means more exposure, leads, and sales for exhibitors.

Meet Other Attendees

One of the main objectives of trade shows is to pitch and network with attendees. These one-on-one or group exchanges can still take place in a virtual environment. 

Exhibitors can either hold a scheduled session to demo or present products and services for a larger audience or pre-schedule private appointments with promising leads.

Related: How to Hybrid: 2021 Guide to Post Pandemic Event Production

Increased Visibility

Trade show veterans know the name of the game is location, location, location – finding prime booth real estate where they can be seen and heard. The virtual landscape eliminates the possibility of being lost in the crowd, providing virtual space for each exhibitor to maximize exposure. 

Every sponsor can occupy a private “booth” in the event’s virtual exhibit hall, where they can showcase their products and services and share all relevant information and links about their company. Sponsors can also underwrite events sessions during which they can directly access audience members and their contact info. 

Get More Leads

Using virtual booths and features makes it effortless for attendees to share their interests and contact details with exhibitors. This allows exhibitors to pursue leads on pre-qualified prospects who are more likely to convert to a sale. Virtual data also will enable marketers to retarget participants who need a bit more nurturing post-event.

Event hosts should provide and collect the data as someone enters your booth. Collecting their email, phone number, and company name would enable you to retarget them on multiple platforms, giving you the brand reinforcement along with the opportunity to offer sales incentives.

Better Data Collection

Virtual technology allows trade show hosts and sponsors to collect valuable data on attendees that can be used to improve sponsorships, content, and marketing strategies for future use. 

For example, virtual platform technologies can track which booths attendees visited, what content they downloaded, and what engagement strategies resulted in the highest number of follow-up meetings, sales, etc. 

Related: 2021 Event Planning: Virtual & Hybrid Event Innovation

virtual trade show stage

The Features Your Virtual Trade Show Needs to Have

There are a few key elements a virtual trade show should have to provide the best experience and value for attendees, exhibitors, and organizers. Here are the top features that exhibitors need to execute an exceptional show. 

Custom Designs and Layouts for Branded Booths

How well sponsors represent and showcase their brands will directly determine how well they attract and connect with attendees. Here are a few fantastic features to wow audiences: 

  • Intro video on booth concept and navigation
  • 3D tours of brand/customer experience 
  • Filmed snippets of product experts and VR demos 
  • Multimedia presentations of history/background

3-D Designs

First impressions last, and they start the second an attendee enters a booth. Sponsors need to put as much effort into designing their virtual booth as they did setting up their physical displays. And with the cutting-edge, customizable features virtual platforms offer, exhibitors, can transform their digital space into a multi-dimensional adventure. 

In-Event Announcements

Keeping attendees informed throughout the event will also keep them tuned in. Live updates help drum up excitement and anticipation about what’s to come. Consistent updates using live chats and pop-up notifications will grab the attention of trade show participants and inspire engagement and increase audience participation. 

Live Chat for Networking

A trade show’s success is only as good as its engagement and networking opportunities. Real-time chats can provide customers with education and solutions on the spot while strengthening personal connections between participants and exhibitors. These organic interactions play an essential role in building rapport, solidifying trust, and converting prospects into sales.

Are you wondering how the 2021 NFL was so successful? Then take a look at how Van Wagner played a part!

A live virtual event by Van Wagner

Live Webinars

Live webinars have earned their place for engaging mass audiences from all over the globe. Inviting leading experts and revered keynote speakers to present will ensure attendance rates soar. And for maximum participation, include a live Q&A post-session to encourage participants to stay tuned and engaged until the very end. 


Including gaming in a virtual event is always a winner for boosting engagement and extending participants’ staying power. Integrating contests and entertainment, such as trivia, scavenger hunts, and live polling infuses the overall event with energy and creates opportunities for fun, meaningful engagement between organizers, sponsors, and participants.

E-Commerce Platform

Virtual trade shows offer exhibitors valuable exposure, but they also provide tangible value by converting participant interactions into sales. However, if there is no digital purchasing platform, ensure participants don’t miss out on part of the event. 

Related: How to Fundraise Virtually, Get More Attendees, and More Money

Quick Checklist for Planning Your Virtual Trade Show

Like all event planning, organizing a virtual trade show means being ready for anything. Use this checklist to stay on track and make sure no detail is overlooked.

  • Develop an event marketing plan across multiple channels to ensure maximum attendance.
  • Create sponsorship packages that promote brand awareness and conversion rates for exhibitors. 
  • Implement best tools to optimize virtual booths, increase engagement, and drive conversion rates.
  • Schedule networking opportunities that extend your show flow to happy hours and sessions.
  • Incentivize attendees to schedule appointments with exhibitors.
  • Use data reports to record success and evaluate performance. 

One thing remains clear in 2021 and beyond, events like industry trade shows have temporarily been changed, and we do not know what the future holds. But with the right technology and strategy in place, virtual trade shows can prove even more successful than previous years, scaling reach and skyrocketing results like never before. 

Do you want to take your virtual or hybrid event to the next level? Then contact Van Wagner today!

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