A virtual trade show is a cross between a webcast meeting and a video game. And it’s the next big trend in trade shows. Although a mere 1% of all trade mxl tv are now held online, industry experts expect that by 2015, more than 25% of trade shows will be conducted in virtual environments. That’s a market you can’t afford to ignore.
Like online meetings, a virtual trade show can be simple or breathtakingly realistic. The simplest assemble a series of pages, each one a virtual booth for an exhibitor, plus instant messaging so exhibitors and attendees can talk in real time. The more complex are complete environments like high-level video games or such online worlds as Second Life. In these, each participant controls an avatar. VOIP (voice over internet protocol) can allow you to talk to attendees, and you can easily email brochures or allow attendees to download them.
Imagine a trade show with no costs for transportation, shipping, hotels, hospitality, or booths, and just a minimal cost for exhibit space. That’s a virtual trade show.
With travel costs rising and travel budgets falling, more industries are turning to virtual trade shows as a less expensive way to showcase their wares. Electronics and high tech companies are naturally comfortable with the online format, but they’re not alone. Plenty of other industries, from plumbing to candy-wrapper design, have held successful virtual shows.
All too often, the sheer size of trade show investment keeps the marketing department stuck in a traditional rut of “what worked last year.” The new medium will free you to experiment with innovative exhibit ideas-and rapidly change the ones that don’t work. At a virtual trade show, you don’t need to worry about the flow of foot traffic or many other design constraints.
Moreover, you’ll have help designing your display. Set-up on virtual trade show sites takes less than an hour, and the software is supplied. Depending on the site, you will have an exciting array of multimedia tools at your service. Some offer VOIP (voice over internet protocol), so you can chat by voice with attendees. Most offer instant messaging capabilities, so you can chat in real time with attendees-and keep several conversations going at once.
Not only will you be able to test fresh approaches, you will also have the freedom to explore new markets without fear of blowing the annual budget. Because of the low overhead, you can dare to attend non-traditional trade shows you might not otherwise attempt.
Compared to traditional trade shows, virtual trade shows are “greener.” Lowering environmental impact is an increasingly important goal for many companies. Tax incentives for cutting fuel costs are also likely to increase, making virtual exhibits an even more attractive proposition.
Traditional trade shows often generate exciting leads. Unfortunately, 80% of those leads are never followed up – a statistic bound to discourage the most enthusiastic marketing professional. The reasons are myriad: disconnects between marketing and sales departments, the difficulties of reading hand-scribbled names and addresses, the tedium of entering contact information by hand into databases.
However, virtual trade shows collect the data for you – and most include built-in lead management software. Suddenly tracking those leads becomes simple. In addition, many systems offer tags so you can make notes on attendees or companies, making it easy to follow up. You can also keep tabs on both staff and attendee activities.
Virtual trade show systems generally allow you to run analytics as soon as the show is over. Instead of entering all the data separately, the virtual trade show tracks and analyzes it for you. You’ll be able to start following up leads immediately, which can greatly improve your return on investment.