Virtual events started off as a temporary alternative to physical trade shows amidst the COVID-19 crisis, but in as little as a few months, they proved to be much more than that. As more and more companies embraced the new format, it became obvious that virtual events offer many benefits to participating brands and that they can deliver the same fantastic performance as the traditional events we were used to. Even as things get back to normal, virtual events will continue to redefine the world of trade show marketing, and exhibitors are expected to switch to a hybrid approach that combines the two formats.
Moving forward, understanding the most effective virtual event strategies will be an essential skill for exhibitors, so here are the five secrets that can help you create memorable experiences.
Know your audience and what you’re trying to achieve
This rule applies to all marketing, so virtual events shouldn’t be an exception. Before creating your booth, design and establishing your strategy, you should have a clear overview of your audience and their expectations. Doing market research prior to the event goes a long way, not just in terms of establishing the most effective virtual booth design, but also creating the perfect promotional materials.
Doing audience research will help you create more compelling content that has the potential to convert. Here are some of the details you should try to pinpoint before starting work on your booth design:
- Create customer personas: who is your audience? How old are they, where do they live, and in what field do they work?
- What are some things that your audience finds useful when interacting with service providers?
- What is the language and text format your audience prefers?
- What content medium does your audience prefer (text/audio/video/mixed)?
Have a memorable booth design
Although they differ in many regards, virtual and physical trade shows have one big thing in common: it’s all about making a big first impression and the surefire way to do that is through a memorable booth design. In a virtual event, as in a physical one, exhibitors are fighting for the audience’s attention, so the more unique your booth is, the better.
But it’s important to keep in mind that your ideal booth design doesn’t necessarily need to be presented during a virtual event. In fact, for all their benefits, virtual events also have their shortcomings: they can be expensive to attend, and they don’t always go down smoothly. For example, the physical trade shows that tried to go virtual quickly often failed in execution, and exhibitors had problems with live chat and audio technologies, the user experience was low-end, or all of the exhibitors had the same booth design template. All of these things can affect the number of leads and prospects coming in, and therefore the ROI.
One way of ensuring this doesn’t happen to your business is to create a virtual exhibition booth and promote it yourself, on your website and on social media. This allows for a higher degree of customization and higher-end user experience that results in more leads. Plus, you can keep the booth live for as long as you want, not just a couple of days, like in the case of virtual events, and that offers you more exposure.
Create engaging experiences
Did you know that over 75% of marketers report that maximum audience engagement occurs in the middle or at the end of the marketing funnel, which is exactly where most online audiences are when viewing your booth? More often than not, virtual booth visitors aren’t totally new to your business. They know the product/service, perhaps they even follow you on social media already, and they’re at that stage where they’re comparing providers and need that final push to become paying customers. A successful virtual exhibition can be that final push.
Capturing the audience’s attention is the first step to a successful virtual event, but it doesn’t end there. That initial positive first impression should be followed by an engaging experience with the brand. There are many ways to go about this, depending on the nature of the event and the product/services you sell. For example, that engaging experience can be a webinar, a Q&A session, an immersive product presentation, or a well-made video about the brand.
Before paying to attend a virtual event, find out how audiences will interact with your brand. And, if you feel that there aren’t that many options available, or that the kind of suggested experience isn’t something your audience will value, don’t hesitate to create your own virtual booth instead. This way, you’re not limited by anyone and you can be in charge of telling the story.
Use digital elements to tell a compelling story
Physical trade shows are expensive affairs and sometimes there’s a huge difference between what exhibitors would have wanted to achieve and what the budget realistically allowed them to. With virtual booths, your options aren’t as limited and development costs are significantly lower. So, if you have a creative idea for a compelling story, don’t hesitate to apply it. Thanks to digitization, possibilities are endless and you can play with various elements to tell a story. There are countless creative digital storytelling ideas you can implement, depending on your niche and the type of content that your audience prefers. For example, your booth can include an immersive 3D video that explains how your product is made, how the company was founded, or how the product works. You can also include success stories of previous satisfied customers, under the form of text testimonials or video footage. When using digital storytelling, try to focus less on direct promotion and more on triggering positive emotions.
Was your virtual event a success? Keep the conversation going? After the event is over, go to social media to talk about the highlights. It’s a great way of boosting engagement and piquing the interest of people who weren’t there. Needless to say, don’t forget to follow up on all the questions you’ve received from participants. These are high-quality, qualified leads, and replying to them means making one more step towards a sale.