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There are all kinds of questions going through event planners’ heads right now. How do I keep a virtual audience engaged? How do I create my virtual event budget? And what are some virtual trade show ideas I can use? Well, strap on tight, because today, we’re answering the latter question. It’s been our goal here at Endless to hold your hand through the virtual world. So far, we’ve given you some great tips on everything from sponsorships to virtual happy hours.

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But some of the questions we see people asking more often surround trade shows. Is it possible to replicate them? How can they be monitored? Do they have the potential to be successful? No more wondering from now on! On today’s episode of Whiteboard Wednesday, our incredible host Will Curran will share some of the most unique and exciting virtual trade show ideas. So press play and join us on this thrilling adventure!

virtual trade show ideas

First Things First: Why?

First of all, think about the purpose of an exhibit hall for your attendees. Because far too many people think it’s just about putting up a bunch of pages and make the attendees click around it. Well, that’s like saying, let’s just put a bunch of booths up and hope our attendees walk through it.

That stuff doesn’t work anymore. So you have to think about why your attendees even care about the exhibit hall. Is it there so people can learn about new product ideas? Is it so they can go close a deal and get the new order placed for the year for the product that they need? Or is it because they get to see these crazy new, unique ideas and brainstorm? You have to know this. Because you’re thinking strategically about your attendees. So we want to think about what the purpose is of the exhibit hall for attendees.

Virtual Trade Show Ideas: The Sponsor & Exhibitor Side

Also, think about what is the purpose for your sponsors and your exhibitors. Far too many people think they just want to meet the attendees. Well, that’s not always true. That’s only the surface level of it, but think deeper. Is the exhibitor there to maybe foster relationships with existing clients? Are they there to sign contracts and close deals? Are they there to showcase and launch a new product? What does that look like for your exhibitors?

And think about the purpose. Once you understand that purpose, think from a digital marketing mindset. Don’t think of it as a trade show where you have a traditional booth an attendee has to walk by. Instead, how would someone do that online? So for example, if you have a product launch, how would someone do that online? Do they do press releases online? Do they release some video content? Think about that as well.

Virtual Trade Show Ideas: The Nitty Gritty

The first thing you have to do is change your mindset when it comes to these virtual trade shows. Far too often we want to just call it the online trade show. Instead, think about rebranding it from the virtual trade show to the online expo hub or the online solution center. Think about that branding when it comes to your event and how you can create a new experience that has a little bit of branding on it as well, rather than just calling it the virtual trade show or the expo hall on.

Communicating With Attendees

The next thing that you want to think about is conveying the difference to your attendees. Now that you’ve rebranded it, how can you convey this difference? Let them know that this is not the same as an in-person trade show, because if they’re thinking in that mindset of it being a trade show, they’re going to only want to see it as a trade show. They’re going to be disappointed as an attendee. But think about how you can convey the difference to your exhibitors as well. Because if you keep saying it’s a trade show, they’re going to expect it to look like that.

Crushing The Booth

Let’s use one of Endless’s favorite sayings. We’re not going to think outside the booth, we’re going to crush the booth! So we’re going to think completely differently when it comes to this. Say no to the visual representation of what this exhibit hall looks like in three dimensions, that Sims-like experience where you have a three-dimensional person walking around. Just say no to those. They’re not engaging. They’re not fun. No one likes them. So let’s not do them.

Instead, think about these virtual trade show ideas. Figure out how to do intimate sessions with, for example, the vendors. Maybe a vendor is incredibly great at inbound marketing and they have some great insights that they can share when it comes to it. Or maybe better yet, one of your vendors is really good at social media marketing. Maybe they can sit down with sessions and help each attendee improve their LinkedIn profile. Think how cool doing those campfire sessions would be!

Next, think about maybe doing some video content. For example, have a video play at the end of the keynote for that exhibitor. Or better yet, maybe you do it as a pre-roll ad and before they get to log into the keynote, a video ad plays. But instead, part of that is you include a little button with a meeting link that allows attendees to book a meeting with those vendors. So if they are interested and they see this shiny new product that just got launched, they want to meet that vendor.

Virtual Trade Show Ideas: Keep ‘Em Coming!

Now, think about on-demand product demos. Maybe your exhibitors have a lot of cool product demos they want to share that they don’t post on their YouTube channel. Maybe you could make that content for them. That’s monetization right there. But maybe instead, you can put that content online inside your event and say that you have exclusive product demos of how these products work and they’re inside the solution center. Again, not using that virtual trade show idea.

Content Everywhere

Next, we’re jumping into content offers from the exhibitors. Everybody’s making content right now. Ebooks, webinars, video content, podcasts. Maybe these exhibitors can create some exclusive content for you. Maybe, for example, you ask every exhibitor that you have that has its own podcast to record an episode about the trade show. And then you compile those all together into a solution center. Again, get rid of that virtual trade show idea. Maybe, for example, you put all the eBooks together in one little thing, and then the attendees can come in and download the entire content library.

The important thing that you could do with this is exchange that contact information with the attendees. So then that way the attendees are opting in for this content. And you’re creating lead generation. This is all classic digital marketing stuff all day long! Just Google the top 100 digital marketing ideas, implement those all inside your booth.

Bring On The Data!

So the next thing you want to think about when it comes to your virtual trade show ideas is data. For digital marketing, this data is really easy. Back in the day, if you wanted lots of data like who visited my booth, how long were they there, and so on, we had to slap RFID wristbands on people and Bluetooth low energy. It was expensive and complicated. But with the internet, it’s so easy to collect data.

For example, capture what pages all your attendees viewed. You could send that list of all the attendees who visited a certain page that is important to an exhibitor. You can also tell them how long they spend on that page. Think about conversion rates. How many people at the end of the video actually clicked that meeting link. And think about the lead generation.

How many leads were generated from that form for that ebook? And last but not least, think about all the data you can give to your sales reps, arming and giving the exhibitors that access. That data in real-time enables their sales reps to know where the hot people are and where the hot leads are and where they can get the best business from when it comes to it all day long. And that might be ultimately one of the biggest purposes for your exhibitors.


And that’s a wrap on this episode about virtual trade show ideas! As you can see, creating an experience like this in the current paradigm doesn’t have to be complicated. Creativity and persistence are the most important things to aim for in this case. So, are you ready to take the leap and create your own virtual trade show experience?

Download our free virtual event planning checklist today and learn what you have to do every step of the way to create an unforgettable experience for your attendees. And if you’re looking for the best virtual event production company out there, chat with us! The Endless team is here to help.

Make sure you join us again next week for another episode. In case you’re interested in extra virtual event content, click here to learn more while you wait for another Whiteboard Wednesday!

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Will Curran

Author Will Curran

Information junkie, energetic, and work-a-holic are just some of the words we can use to describe Will Curran. Aside from spending 20 out of 24 hours a day working as the Chief Event Einstein of Endless Events, you can catch Will ordering a chai latte or watching The Flash with his cats. He is also well known for his love of all things pretzels.

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