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How to prepare for a virtual presence at an online tradeshow

4.5 minute read

Most major tradeshows are converting to virtual platforms. These are being developed quickly and there are some versions that provide a lot of interaction and opportunities. This is a new medium but the objectives for food and beverage companies remain the same: build existing relationships, generate new opportunities, increase brand awareness and ultimately convert all of this to sales.

As you explore these opportunities, remember to keep your overall objectives in mind. It is possible to get caught up in the technology and lose sight of why you’re investing resources in the virtual show. When your objectives are clear, you can begin to prepare.

Begin with the end in mind

There are a number of different platforms available. Take time to learn how to use the platform before the show. Each application has unique capabilities and opportunities:

  • Your virtual presence should reflect your branding and positioning in the market. Use your brand standards to guide the development of your materials.

  • Set up your profile, add your photo, link it to your social media and find any other tools available. Make it easy to find you and your products.

  • Some of the key functions allow for opportunities to interact outside your booth. Learn how to use the chat rooms and breakout sessions so you can interact with existing or potential customers.

Many of these applications will have tutorials online or if you are tech savvy, you can explore on your own.  Alternatively, find people (in any industry) who might have used the platform for another event.

Maximize the use of a booth

When you begin to design your virtual booth consider the audience and the medium. Often just uploading existing collateral is not the best option. You might need to alter the format or message to be more effective in the virtual environment.

Telling your story needs to be done with accuracy and speed. People seem to have less time in this space and unless you are able to intercept them in a chat room or open space, they have more control over where they go or who they interact with. They might plan to attend a tradeshow for 6-8 hours to “walk the floor” whereas in the virtual space they see it as an opportunity to get in and out in much less time

Virtual tradeshows can attract large numbers, from anywhere, but the conversations are much more focused.

Most platforms provide the opportunity for participants to create a ‘briefcase’ of documents or information. You need to find ways to stand out from the crowd. Video can be very effective in your booth but make sure it loads quickly. Visitors are looking for instant execution and will not wait long to view content. Your video needs to be targeted at the person attending the tradeshow and less than two minutes. If the people at the tradeshow are retailers, wholesalers and distributors, then the video needs to be made for them. Do not use a consumer-focused video or something to explain your process. In this environment, be more focused on business than attracting people with generic video.

In person tradeshows thrive on huge numbers and everyone with a booth is proud of the numbers of visitors they generate. Virtual tradeshows can attract large numbers, from anywhere, but the conversations are much more focused. You will have fewer visitors that will have much higher potential. For this reason, the people in your virtual booth should be prepared to have a more detailed conversation quickly.

Preparation goes a long way

Set up a schedule with people in your business to be in the booth and remember time zones need to be considered. There is nothing more frustrating than an empty virtual booth.

Scan the list of attendees in advance. Seek out the people you know or want to meet in the chat or open rooms. If you get a visitor to your booth or come across someone you do not know, a quick Google search or visit to their LinkedIn profile might give you some valuable information that can help in the conversation.

Sampling is one of the challenges in the virtual environment. You can use a chef to create an enticing video but it still does not replace the actual trial of your products. Consider in advance how you will get samples to the right people. Once you establish the recipients, create an experience for them with your samples when they are shipped. Consider some of the following options or develop your own memorable sampling:

  • Hire a chef from a local restaurant

  • Develop a meal kit so they can use the product

  • Hire a celebrity or influencer

  • Partner with a culinary school and have students briefed and deliver them

  • Work with brand advocates to deliver the samples

  • Make a video to go with the samples

Get creative and stand out from the crowd. Too many people just put their product in a cardboard box with ice packs. Regardless of the strategy you employ, the quicker you can get the samples to recipients the better.

Follow up from virtual shows is just as important as an in-person show. Establish a process to assess the people you interact with quickly, to determine if you should try to set up a follow up video conference. Remember, no one has to travel home so try to do this as quickly as possible.

With virtual tradeshows many of the objectives are the same; however, the work to achieve them is different. Embrace the medium and stand out from the crowd with solid preparation and execution in the platform.

Article by: Peter Chapman

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