As a Trade Show Marketing Consultant with Skyline Exhibits by Larry Reitz & Associates, I am approached frequently with questions about best practices and what’s new and hot in the industry. Lately, there has been a lot of buzz around virtual and hybrid events. What are they? Will they replace traditional trade shows?
What Are Virtual and Hybrid Trade Shows?
A virtual trade show is an online environment where users enter an online exhibition hall and connect with other users on the Internet. These virtual events use technology such as video streaming and online chats to allow users to interact and view products. With the rising price of travel, these virtual events have really picked up steam with exhibitors seeking cost effective ways to present their products to reach even larger audiences. A Hybrid event offers exhibitors the opportunity to expand their reach outside of the trade show floor and gain an even larger audience by offering live streaming.
Will Virtual Events Replace Traditional Trade Shows?
It’s not likely, unless there is a struggling show and perhaps it makes more sense for that show to move to a virtual environment. Think of it this way, we all have the ability to shop online, but there are some items we still want to go to a store, to see, to touch, to interact with a live person and truly understand before we make our purchase. Sometimes we need that validation from a live person to confirm what we think we already know. We use all of the resources available to us to make informed decisions before we purchase something, whether its online research or visiting a store to interact with a product.
Technology affords us a lot of great opportunities to learn, interact, and spread our message. But at the end of the day, we still need and want face-to-face interaction. Even in social media circles we have tweet-ups and meet-ups so that we can meet the person behind the Twitter handle to learn more about them. We want to get to know the people that we are sharing our content with.
The trade show floor is your best opportunity to truly connect with your audience. It’s your time to show your prospect or client the voice on the other end of the phone, the person behind the emails. It’s your time to let your prospect know who YOU are and interact with them on a personal level. It’s your time to give them your undivided attention and show them you are genuinely interested in them and their needs.
Participating In Virtual Events
If you plan on adding a virtual event to your show schedule, as always, do your homework. Attend an industry-related virtual event yourself to get a feel for the interactions. Reach out to industry people that you trust that can recommend a good virtual event developer who can provide a booth preview. Ask questions about the set up and design costs involved. As you would with a traditional trade show, find out about booth location and potential sponsorship opportunities to give yourself the best exposure.
Virtual has its rightful place in our industry and its reach is undeniable. But, you can’t deny the power and impact of one-to-one human interaction either!