It seems there’s no such thing as “business as usual” anymore as businesses pivot their in-person marketing strategies to focus on developing a positive virtual experience. 

For the trade show industry, that means until the time comes where we can experience the excitement of an in-person trade show, we’ll have to harness the power of virtual technology and get creative!

Here are 9 steps for planning a successful virtual event:

 

1.  Define your objectives

Just like an in-person event, you should approach your virtual event with pre-established goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). 

Your goals for your virtual event will probably be very similar to your goals for any trade show. You may be aiming for increased brand awareness, new leads, or conversions. The difference, of course, will be how you measure and meet these goals.

Here are some examples of virtual event KPIs:

  • If your goal is brand awareness, track the number of views or visitors during your event, the length of time a viewer remains engaged, or active participation in the event.

  • If your goal is lead generation, track the number of attendees who provided contact information such as an email address.

  • If your goal is conversions, you would track number of sales as a direct result of the virtual event.


2.  Pick a theme and stick to it 

This design principle aligns with the usual trade show marketing best practices. Your branding and your sales/marketing funnel assets should be well-aligned and clearly tied together. 

For example, it’s most effective to have your event registration page, your sales page, your promotional graphics, and all outreach such as emails and social media posts utilize the same colors, fonts, image themes, and copy points. 

This makes each marketing “touch” more impactful and will help the entire virtual event feel cohesive.

 

3.  Establish a budget 

Planning a successful event depends upon a thorough budget. The budget for your virtual event will include items such as design, software/technical assistance, any A/V equipment needed, paid ads and promotional videos, costs for influencers/performers/speakers, giveaways, and the time spent by those within your organization.

 

4.  Create assets

You’ll need a mix of promotional and content materials created to bring in attendees and offer value.

  • Marketing materials: Plan to create email design and copy, social media images and videos, website content and landing pages, etc.

  • Content offers: Make sure that attendees (and even those who show interest but do not attend your virtual event) leave with something of value. Digital guides, ebooks, checklists, whitepapers, and more can be created for use as digital “swag.”


5.  Assemble your team and tools

All hands on deck for your big event:

  • Design teams: You’ll need one design team to create graphic assets to be used during the event and for all promotional efforts, and another for virtual booth design rendering.

  • Video team: For production of video assets and any live streamed elements of the event.

  • Online assistant(s): To answer questions from your attendees, especially product-related questions. Think of this role as a virtual trade show booth attendant.

  • CRM integration: Your CRM tool is integral for tracking who’s visited your event, who is engaged, and who is ready for follow-up. Ideally, your CRM will automatically place leads into the appropriate marketing funnel.

6.  Make it fun and engaging

Your virtual event can and should have the same interactive, lively energy as an in-person trade show booth. 

You can “gamify” to boost engagement with the use of contests, incentives, and giveaways. Another effective strategy is to host live demos or Q&A sessions. 

During a trade show, movement and interaction attract and retain visitors, and the same principles apply to your virtual event. Encourage participation and keep things moving.

 

7.  Equip your staff

Providing your staff with all necessary training and materials will help your virtual event go as smoothly as possible, especially if this is your first one. Make sure each staff member knows their role in executing the virtual event and give your team tools to communicate, such as project management and team chat software. 

 

8.  Conduct a retrospective

What went well during your event? What would you do differently? Dig deep to improve and optimize for your next event. 

 

9.  Plan ahead

Allowing ample time to align your designs and marketing assets will help you maximize the success of your virtual event. Leave some wiggle room for approvals and revisions to prevent any last-minute scrambles that may cause delays in your strategy or launch. 

Exhibit Options is here to assist you with the ups and downs of our new marketing environment! Please don’t hesitate to reach out with your event strategy or virtual booth rendering needs.

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