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The Insider Secrets to Exhibitor Success
Your company had to transition your exhibit to a virtual environment in 2020 and now with 2021 on the horizon, virtual events will likely be your primary tradeshow and conference strategy. This calls on you to reimagine the trade show booth, find ways to attract people to you, and create calls to action that result in sales leads. And you want to be personal, stand out from the crowd and motivate attendees to engage.
I’ve watched hundreds of exhibitors across many the many trade shows and conferences that we have delivered over Cloud Conventions and have worked directly with a large number of them as we help our customers stage their event. As a result, we have a front-row seat to “insider secrets” that exhibitors use to deliver the ROI they need for success in the virtual world.
Companies often believe that exhibiting at a virtual event takes way less work than a live one; however, nothing could be further from the truth. You don’t have to ship the booth, travel to the venue and stand up all day, but you do have to create a plan, prepare ahead of time, elevate your graphics design, and understand how technology can work for you or against you. And remember, virtual events offer extended time to keep you connected to attendees even when the exhibit hall closes, and the live portion is over.
Exhibitors that invest their virtual tradeshow budget in the right places have an outstanding opportunity to achieve an even-stronger ROI than they would at a live tradeshow. Investments in graphics, videos, pre-event marketing, and sponsorship placements are worth it if attendees find your virtual booth and like what they see. You didn’t have to pay for travel, entertainment or hotels, so reinvest those dollars to create an outstanding exhibit experience.
We have launched our next eBook series and podcasts: The Insider Secrets to Exhibit Success. Here is an overview of what you will learn when you listen to our podcasts and download our eBook.
Secret #1: Plan Ahead
Successful exhibitors do their homework and plan ahead. They find out the type of individuals who are likely to attend to target this new audience. They look to see who is exhibiting, where they’ve exhibited in the past to a sense of the competition. They explore the agenda, look at the topics and incorporate those elements into their content strategy. They start early to upgrade graphics, produce new materials and get the content message in line. They market ahead of the event leveraging the attendee list provided by the event or create one of their own and reach out ahead to schedule meetings before the event opens.
Secret #2: Reach out in Advance
The time to engage attendees in a virtual event is not when it opens; it’s well in advance. Successful exhibitors have a strategy to let the market know that they are exhibiting at the event, tease potential attendees about what they will experience if they come to the booth and give people reasons to meet while the show is live. Successful exhibitors use every promotional tool at their disposal including social media, email marketing and press announcements.
Secret #3: Understand the Technology
Exhibitors participating in multiple events use different technology platforms that host their virtual booths, all of which are different. Successful exhibitors get to know the technology for each individual event, gain a full understanding of the features and learn how to leverage them to enhance the attendee experience. Exhibitors must compensate for virtual booths that offer fully featured immersive experiences to those that are more basic.
Secret #4: Have a Content Strategy
Exhibitors that excel know how to position themselves as experts in their industry, trend-setters and educators. They go beyond the need to be constantly focused on selling their product features in sessions to showcasing their expertise on their marketplace, what is trending, and the changing face of the customer. A content strategy defines the exhibitor inside the booth as well as on the show’s event stage.
Secret #5: Build a Better Booth
Move around the virtual exhibit hall and visit various booths and it’s clear to see which exhibitors ”phoned it in” and those that worked hard to build a better booth. Booths that attract attendees and hold their attention have compelling graphics, offer video content, upload the right marketing and product materials and have a strategy to give attendees what they need and want.
Secret #6: Think Outside the Booth
The booth is only one segment of the event platform and successful exhibitors that know how to place themselves outside the booth to elevate their profile. Sponsorships offer exhibitors advertising placements, sponsorships of sessions, the opportunity to host the social sessions and coffee breaks, have premium placements in site directories and be showcased in exhibit hall pavilions.
Secret #7: Create Calls to Action
If the only thing an attendee can do inside a booth is look around, then the exhibitor has missed opportunities to get the attendee involved with the booth staff, participating in educational opportunities, or having a path to get important items delivered to them. Calls to action enhance attendee engagement, keep them in the booth longer and accomplish what the exhibitor values most...valuable sales leads.
Secret #8: Get Creative
Let’s face it, virtual conferences and tradeshows struggle to keep things interesting. When the event fails to delight the audience, that gives the exhibitor an opening to step in and make the attendee experience memorable inside the booth. The more creative the booth appears, the more the activities inside the booth are interesting, or the more the content is engaging, the more the exhibitor will be remembered.
Secret #9: Analyze and Adjust
Smart exhibitors ask for data before, during and after the event and use that intelligence to adjust strategy. Attendees often register for virtual events at the last minute, and sometimes don’t ever login. Exhibitors should understand how people many are actually active in the platform to adjust their expectations. If available, exhibitors should closely monitor booth traffic, content views and engagement to adjust their strategy mid-event if needed.
Secret #10: Have a Strong Follow Up Strategy
You’ve put most of your effort in the pre-event marketing, building out your content strategy and making your virtual booth memorable. Now it’s time to think about the follow up. Virtual events almost always have extended timeframes for attendees to watch live sessions on-demand and come back to the exhibit hall to explore the virtual booths. Extend your marketing plan to include on-going follow up with attendees.
Virtual exhibits will be an integral part of your 2021 marketing strategy and you must take your participation seriously, understand that you have more opportunities to achieve a strong ROI in a virtual environment, and that you have to put in the work to stand out from the crowd. You have to get started early with a plan, start reaching out to the market well before the show stages, learn the platform’s features so you can make full use of the booth experience and plan to offer strong content.
Build a better booth by updating graphics and adding strong visuals and think outside the booth to attract attendees through sponsorships. Get creative to make it interesting for attendees to come inside and stay and don’t forget to create calls to action to generate leads. Use data to analyze and adjust your strategy and don’t forget to invest in follow up.
We hope these insider secrets will help you learn from the best of our exhibitors to create a great virtual exhibit experience.