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Get the most out of your virtual trade show experience

Interested in exhibiting at an upcoming Minnesota Society of CPAs event?

Exhibiting at a trade show is a great way to get in front of financial decision-makers who are customers and prospects in a short amount of time.

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Updated: December 2022

The trade show world is now in the virtual world. Handshakes are replaced with waves at a web cam. The people may be the same, but the experience is way different.

While working with event sponsors, I’ve found that despite virtual trade shows feeling different, the ability to make connections and grow your business remain the same. But, there are some new strategies to consider if you want to make the most out of your virtual experience.

1) Have realistic goals
Let's face it: You're not going to get the foot traffic in a virtual booth compared to an in-person event. That said, the individuals logging in to your virtual booth are more likely to be engaged and interested in your offerings; they're not there just to make small talk.

Think over your goals before the event. How many attendees do you hope visit your virtual booth? How many leads do you hope to generate? Be clear and realistic about what your participation in a virtual trade show is going to achieve.

2) Get your space ready
When you attend an in-person event, a lot of work goes into what you’ll bring to your booth: a branded table covering, a backdrop, print pieces, etc. The same work needs to go into your virtual booth space.

Think about how you want to showcase your company. What does your background look like? Is your company brand visible? How is your lighting and camera position? While you don't need fancy virtual backgrounds and professional video conferencing gear, a little effort in this area will make a big difference between a polished virtual booth and one that says, "Oops, I forgot to clean my home office."

3) Get to know the conference platform
Many organizations use an app or virtual platform to “host” their event. These platforms offer several ways for you to connect with conference attendees. Check with the organization to learn how to log in to these platforms, explore its features and best use this resource throughout the event.

4) Know your stuff
Maybe you could get by sending the company intern to an in-person trade show because all you expected of them was to wave to passers-by. This doesn’t work in the virtual world. When people log into your booth, they’re expecting to hear from someone who can explain their offerings and answer questions. If they suspect the person in the virtual booth doesn’t know what they’re talking about, all it takes is a click to leave.

5) Plan for some fun
Just before coming into your virtual booth, conference attendees are spending hours in online classes. Now is not the time to give them a lecture.

Instead, plan something fun to engage with them in a memorable way. Stumped on what to do? Consider some of these ideas:

  • Prepare a word-search and ask people to identify the first word they see. This is a great conversation starter.
  • Create a puzzle of your logo, like this example. Chat out the link and be ready to award the person who assembles it the fastest!
  • Play and interactive trivia game. You can create the trivia questions or hire an outside company to assist you.
  • Do a scavenger hunt. List a few items for people to find in their home, and the first one back with all the items wins a prize. (This is also a great way to get attendees moving after sitting at their screens most of the day!)

There are numerous ideas out there. Find something that fits your brand and creates a buzz during the conference.

6) Consider add-ons to enhance your virtual booth
If your target audience will be swarming a virtual event, you should ask the organizing host if there’s additional sponsorship opportunities to enhance your virtual presence. For example, here are some things the MNCPA recently offered our event sponsors:

  • Demonstrations. Companies participating in demonstrations were promoted in our conference program, conference app and session announcements. Attendees who attended demonstrations often followed-up with a visit to the virtual booth.  
  • Sponsor some swag. Part of the fun for conference attendees is to go around the trade show floor and collect your swag. So, we invited companies to sponsor a swag item to be mailed to the first 600 registrants.
  • Sponsor a speaking session. We reserved a few session times to feature companies’ subject-matter experts. These sessions provided companies an opportunity to speak on an educational topic for CPE credit. 

7) Your virtual experience is a partnership
Your virtual booth’s success is a top priority for the organization hosting a virtual event. They will do everything they can to work with you and help increase engagement. Between your preparations and their knowledge of your audience, you’ll have a perfect partnership.

The MNCPA would love to hear from you! What has been successful for you at virtual conferences? Contact us with your ideas and we’ll consider them as we continue to grow the virtual booth experience for our partners.

Your connection with the MNCPA

Leslie Mueller
Strategic Partnership Specialist