Mitigate the Challenges of Going Virtual for Trade Shows & Events

Virtual Trade Show Booth

Trade shows are a great way to have a meaningful interaction with clients and prospects alike. But what happens when an in-person show or event is no longer an option? Going virtual is an appealing option for sales and marketing teams to fill the void when the in-person event has been canceled.

While many businesses have no other option and are turning digital, it’s important to remember that a virtual show isn’t going to be a perfect replacement for a live, in-person event.  

A live, in-person trade show is an incredible tool for marketers, because it allows for meaningful interactions, conversation, thought leadership, and ultimately, relationship building. That value also translates to your industry colleagues and sharing knowledge and insights with one another, an experience that is a cornerstone of a trade show. 

Holding a virtual trade show means attempting to translate those meaningful experiences into a digital one. This includes taking your booth, the exhibit hall, the handshakes, and even keynote speakers and translating those into a digital experience. That’s a tall order!

Let’s consider some of the challenges digital events have compared with in-person events, and how to mitigate them. 

Feels impersonal 

Connecting digitally is not the same as connecting in person. There’s just something about an in-person experience that cannot be replicated online. 

Consider strategies to make the digital experience warmer and more personal such as welcoming, by name, registrants as they log-in.  

Low engagement

Even if you have a great attendance at your virtual event, engagement may be difficult. Attendees tuning in from their home office or office may be distracted by multi-tasking, urgent business or even family needs.  

Incorporating polls and surveys are a great way to keep your attendees engaged throughout your event. You can build on this idea by incorporating contests where attendees can earn benefits by engaging during your event. 

Limited-to-no networking

Interacting and building relationships with others in your industry is the cornerstone of an in-person trade show. That physical interaction on the trade show floor is missing. 

Consider incorporating a chat feature into your event or adding topical break-out sessions with an engaging facilitator.

Tech problems

A live, virtual trade show could encounter issues with internet speed and connection that may lead to latency or other problems. 

Make sure you have a back-up plan in the event of technology problems. Be sure to schedule a run-through before your event using the exact technology environment in order to work out any kinks in advance. 

Budget appropriately 

When you consider all the costs involved, an in-person trade show exhibit can add up to a lot of money. However, it is money well spent and has been proven to be a very low cost per lead. Virtual events also can also require significant funding.

Divert savings from your canceled in person event to the digital experience which may require sets and backdrops, new graphics and new video content creation. 

Planning lead time

In-person trade shows and show organized virtual events have a specific timeline and requires advanced planning. Don’t underestimate the planning necessary to execute a successful digital event. 

Approach your digital event as you would planning for an in-person event. Apply the same effort you want to driving traffic to the booth to your digital event. Also consider content creation needsDo you have new digital content that needs to be created? That will require scripting, storyboarding, practice sessions, video and editing.

There are many considerations when planning a digital event. The list can seem daunting. And while a virtual event will not likely generate the same results as an in-person event, they can be a good tactic for making connections. 


Exhibit Concepts’ newest department, NEXT Lab™, has been busy preparing for this virtual world we are now living in. From customized webcam-based live streaming, video conference backgrounds, to full productions that digitally presents your exhibit booth, the NEXT Lab team is ready to meet your virtual needs. Queue ECI’s VEP (Virtual Exhibit Platform): as big as any booth we’ve ever built, and it fits entirely on your computer.

You can learn more about VExP here 


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