Virtual Trade Show: The Ultimate Guide (2020)

Imagine a world where you could sit back and generate qualified leads. No more tiresome run-arounds to set up the perfect virtual trade show and no more disappointing results.

As technology is becoming easier to use, businesses use innovative methods to maximize their ROI. They now get to keep more money in their pockets!

One such key development is the rise of virtual events, transforming the entire landscape of qualified lead generation. In fact, trends show that virtual and hybrid events will only get bigger from here. To understand what makes virtual trade shows popular, let’s have a closer look at their features and tools. 

So, here’s everything you need to know about hosting through your own virtual trade show platform.

What is a Virtual Trade Show?

This is an online version of an event where goods and services are exhibited, for a particular industry. Various companies and organizations display their products and services, provide information on them, and can even make sales. 

This is a great space to network and meet new wholesale sellers and buyers and thus create new leads. It is also a great space to tap into new global markets.

Reduced cost, maximized reach, excellent engagement and powerful lead generation and ordering tools.

These make this type of event a valuable opportunity for organizers, exhibitors, and attendees all across the globe.

What Are The Benefits of Virtual Trade Shows?

1. Greater Global Reach

The online nature of your trade show can help you qualify leads from across the world. Keeping your event on-demand enables you to gain access to more people in different time zones.

As long as your audience has a device, they have access to a truly exceptional event experience.

2. Lower Costs, More ROI

With lower expenditures than a physical event your event is going to have a definite higher ROI. With a greater global reach, ticketing options and more sponsorship opportunities, a virtual trade show is better bang for your buck.

3. Environmentally Conscious

On average, around 600,000 tons of waste are produced at trade shows every year. This increases the carbon footprint contributing to climatic change. Virtual trade shows eliminate the use of paper and other harmful materials. Turn your business green by hosting a virtual trade show.

4. Increased Accessibility

Virtual trade shows are a great opportunity for people who are differently-abled. Unlike physical fairs, these events provide several options to assist individuals with impairments and other disabilities, allowing them to benefit as much from the event, as any other visitor. These accessibility features are quite useful.

Features to Look For in a Virtual Trade Show

When browsing virtual trade show platforms, there are some key features you should definitely be looking for.

1. Stunning 3D Designs to Wow Audiences

Present your audience with an unforgettable experience from the second they walk into your virtual event. Build a phenomenal 3D environment, starting with a rich, visually compelling landing page.

Then, move on to a highly customizable interface for your exhibitors and attendees. Have your attendees enter a virtual lobby and explore the various booths in the exhibit hall. 

Do this with immersive environments and a diverse set of custom avatars. In short, offer a fully personalized virtual trade show platform to create a lasting impression.

2. Have Cross Device Functionality

With event accessibility through a mobile app, you can have your participants tune in from anywhere on any device. This helps you to maximize attendee participation.

This could be in the event they do not have access to their laptops, are commuting, stuck in traffic or any such scenario. The feature at vFairs now provides timed scavenger hunts that keep attendees thoroughly engaged at your event.


3. Custom Designs and Layouts for Branded Booths

Let’s admit it – setting up booths and chasing vendors to prepare marketing material are a hassle. Virtual trade fairs are the perfect alternative. They let you and your exhibitors make their brand presence known throughout the event. Your exhibitors can also customize their booths, and upload downloadable resources for the audience.


4. Live Chat Tools for Networking

To fulfill the goal of a successful event, you need to ensure maximum interaction between visitors and exhibitors. Live chat tools help provide attendees information and assistance. This makes it easier to turn leads into sales. 

Furthermore, you can improve your conversion rates by addressing FAQs in group chat rooms or reserved chat slots. This way, you can target multiple online prospects at once.

Look for engagement tools such as a real-time chat platform to educate and engage prospects at your event.  A 1:1 text, audio & video chat can enable you to eliminate the hassle of long queues around booths. This way, your audience can keep the conversation going in chat rooms.

5. Event Announcements to Keep Attendees Informed

Use pop-up announcements to keep your audience informed at all times. You can enable mobile notifications on your mobile event app as well. Like any other event, you will need to keep your audience posted with live updates during the event. A virtual trade show allows you to grab the attention of your attendees using pop-up notifications. 

6. Live Webinars to Engage Audiences

So, you’ve got a global audience in one place at a single time. Next, you want to invite industry specialists and keynote speakers. They will provide your audience with significant value on one stage.

When you use a virtual platform, you don’t have to worry about the availability of your speakers or different time zones. Live webinars can be used to engage large crowds at one time. Then, on-demand recordings can help amplify that exposure.

Moreover, include a Q&A session at the end of each webinar. This can maximize the engagement at your event and nurture your leads.


7. E-commerce Platform to Make On-Spot Sales

Virtual trade shows let exhibitors showcase their products and services to the world. They basically help convert global prospects into sales.

Embed an online shop at your event. Attendees can add products into their shopping cart as they explore the event. 

This way, you can eliminate purchasing delays, maximize conversions, and make transactions in real-time. You can use payment portal integrations to make the whole process easier for your audience and vendors.

8. Gamification to Increase Time Spent

Every host wants to boost engagement and increase the time attendees spend at their event. Host exciting contests and games such as scavenger hunts, trivia, and more. You can include a virtual leaderboard where attendees can track their scores. The attendee with the most points can win a gift hamper, gift card or anything you want!

You can also use the leaderboard to direct your audience to certain areas of the event. They will gain scores for partaking in certain actions such as visiting a booth or logging in at a particular time. This can bring more eyeballs to key sponsors or important event information.

9. Detailed Reports to Measure Event Success

In this era, you will lag behind if you don’t have access to real-time data. Unlike physical trade shows, online trade shows provide you with detailed reports at the end of your event. This allows you to measure your ROI for future strategies.

In addition, if your exhibitors want, they can closely monitor and regulate certain booths. You can offer this facility on request. Then, they will have access to real-time reports to improve the output they aim for.

10. Keep the Event Active For As Long As You Want

You can keep your event up and running even after its live features have been deactivated. Unlike a physical event, a virtual platform makes this possible. Exhibitors can receive notifications of booth visits, queries, and purchases. Meanwhile, organizers can continue to promote the event using emails and social media in order to continue its activity. Furthermore, they can make webinars and other content available on-demand for maximum exposure.

Exciting Virtual Trade Show Ideas

A virtual trade show can be created for any kind of industry. Here is a comprehensive list of these kinds of fairs.

Virtual Food Show

Leading distributors & manufacturers like Nestle, Jake’s Finer Foods, and Centennial have recently conducted successful virtual food shows, boosting their profits, and adding value to the entire food industry.

Jake’s Finer Foods (JFF), in particular, strengthened its position as a progressive broad-line distributor by hosting the first of its kind virtual food show. It successfully achieved higher registration volume, extraordinary branding, and insightful communications. This helped create a win-win situation for both the exhibitors and customers.

Virtual Car Show

Yalla Motor, a leading Middle Eastern automotive portal, went big with their recent virtual car show. Due to their diverse audience, this online platform was accessible in Arabic and English. This made it easy to target a larger audience, engage with them via live chat tools, and convert prospects into sales in real-time.

Virtual Property Show

Hosting a virtual property show can help you to target a global audience. Take, for example, OGC who hosted a virtual property fair promoting overseas properties to North American buyers. 

Not only were they able to showcase homes in desirable locations such as France and Spain, they could also connect with real estate agents and lawyers who could better inform them about the buying process and laws in the countries they were looking to buy in.

Virtual Technology Show

No matter the size of your business, the tangible and intangible benefits of hosting a virtual tech show play a significant role.  You cannot yield successful outputs, but also rake in networking, advertising, and direct sales benefits. 

In today’s business environment, tech industrialists are switching to virtual alternatives. Then, they showcase their powerful technologies on a larger scale using the best resources. This helps them surpass high costs and allows them to create a virtual landscape to engage with a wider audience.

Other Virtual Trade Shows

Whether it’s a technology show, a travel show, they come packed with benefits for a global audience. Virtual events offer highly flexible options. They make it easier for organizers in any industry to showcase their products and services to a wider audience without spending an arm and a leg on a physical event.

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Your Virtual Trade Show Planning Checklist

1. Look into platforms before you commit

Before you begin, ask your solution provider for a demo and test the technology yourself. Ensure that the platform is user-friendly for everyone across the globe, and not just techies. Try out multiple platforms if you aren’t satisfied. A platform that a friend raved about might not necessarily work for you.

2. Understand your security needs

The security options available for your event are vital to its success. Ask your virtual event provider about the security features that they employ. This is essential for attendee, sponsor, and host security.

3. Strategize

Identify your objectives, set clear goals for the team, and align expected results. Then, you can move in the planned direction. This also helps monitor and regulate the event as it takes place.

4. Devise a marketing plan

Create a holistic marketing strategy that targets multiple channels. The next section will walk you through a detailed marketing manual.

5. Prepare quality content for your attendees

Virtual trade shows let you host multiple types of content on your platform – whether it’s a document, presentation, or video. Make the most of this and get in touch with your team and sponsors. Then, brainstorm session ideas and content. In addition, collect sales collateral, marketing videos, and any other useful PDFs to showcase at the event.

6. Create an event schedule

Most trade shows go on for a few days. Therefore, your attendees need to have a schedule that shows the complete agenda. Furthermore, this schedule should also state the timings for when trade is open. Make sure your approach accommodates different time zones. Share the schedule on your landing page to make sure interested attendees and exhibitors are online when they want.

7. Monitor the event with data analytics

One of the key selling points for a virtual event is that you can monitor and evaluate your performance. Unlike a physical trade show, this can allow you to both quantify and justify end results.

The Complete Marketing Manual for Organizers

So, you want to host a virtual trade show. But how do you make sure people attend it? Great marketing is at the heart of a great trade show. Let’s see how to nail your marketing campaigns. First, we’ll take a look at marketing collateral for attendees and then, for exhibitors.

Marketing For Attendees

You want more leads at the top of the funnel so a greater amount ends up converting into sales. For this purpose, we’ll explore the following marketing channels:

  1. A landing page that features the event on your website
  2. Email marketing to reach out to your email list
  3. A sticky bar to advertise the event across your website
  4. Social media to create buzz

Landing pages

To market your event, you’ll first need a landing page. This will provide you with an online space to do three important things:

  1. Provide prospects with details about your trade show.
  2. Feature the event registration form.
  3. Provide a gateway to log in to the event.

To improve its visibility and engagement, you should:

  • Include important event details such as event dates, duration, and time.
  • Publish an agenda and speaker information.
  • Optimize your page for search engines.
  • Mention your popular exhibitors and speakers.
  • Feature influencers on your page to make your elevator pitch more attractive.
  • Keep the copy concise and engaging to encourage perspectives to consume more of it. 

To optimize your registration form for higher registration numbers:

  • Add a registration link along with a login link, ideally above the fold.
  • Ask for information that you absolutely need, such as email and first name to ensure quick and easy sign-ups.
  • Make sure that the field labels are straightforward and intuitive. It’s important to make the form as easy as possible to fill out.

Email Marketing

Next, it’s time to leverage your existing email list. Create a vibrant event invitation in your email builder to send out to your list. There, ask them to register for the event. This list will be a quick and easy way to market to already interested prospects.

But what should the emails look like? You want your recipients to be hooked in from the get-go. So, you need crisp and engaging subject lines, informative copy, and relevant visuals. In addition, you can add exhibitor logos and include pictures of your speakers.

Here are some other details to remember:

  • Write a short and exciting subject line to announce the event. No more than 7 words!
  • Personalize your email with targeted language.
  • Include key information such as the show’s time and date.
  • Add a link to your landing page or directly to the registration form.
  • Create an eye-catching call-to-action.
  • Make sure your email is compatible with most devices (that doesn’t mean just mobile!).

Follow this simple schedule to send out your emails and subsequent reminders:

  • First email: Three weeks before the event.
  • Second email: One week before the event.
  • Third email: A day before the event.
  • Fourth email: 15 minutes before the event. Our tests at vFairs have shown that reminder emails sent 10-15 minutes before the event perform better than reminders sent an hour before the event.

Promote On Your Website

Another way to get more eyes on your event is by placing a sticky bar across your website. This will let other visitors know about your event. Plus, it will be on the top of your website on every page. So, every visitor to your website gets to see it.

But these sticky bars are subtle and offer limited space to companies. We recommend only adding two elements to it:

  1. A message to tell readers about the dates of your virtual trade show.
  2. A CTA that asks them to register for the event. The link will take the user to the main event landing page.

While there are other types of modules, a sticky bar will offer the least amount of interruption along with decent visibility for all your visitors.

Target Social Media

With social media consumption consistently on the rise, be sure to leverage this channel. Here’s a little checklist you can use:

  1. Announce your virtual trade show at least a month in advance. You’ll need to send reminders later.
  2. Build anticipation by sharing event details after every few days. Do exhibitor reveals, share speaker bios, or talk about themes that’ll be discussed at the event.
  3. Post content in the relevant Facebook and LinkedIn groups.
  4. Add the link to the event landing page in your social media bios. Also, include it in every social media post that you publish on your channels.
  5. Use UTM links for all your posts. Then, measure the performance of each channel, and keep optimizing your efforts.
  6. Reply to comments, interact with your viewers, and crack a joke if you can! This will make prospects like your brand and look forward to being in your company.

Marketing for Exhibitors

You most likely have a list of contacts already in your emails and extended network. Tap into those and send all the information you can about your event.

They need to learn how going online can benefit them more than a traditional event. Here is a list of benefits that you can share with your exhibitors:

  • Enhance interaction and boost engagement with customers using live chat tools and webinars.
  • Provide attendees with the option to download content in the form of documents, presentations and videos. Monitor your booth and regulate available content in real-time.
  • Customize booths without the hassle of vendors and printers.
  • Use an online shop to make on-spot sales.
  • Evaluate booth performance with detailed reports. These consist of data such as the number of participants, booth visits & sources driving the audience to the event

Virtual Trade Show Analytics

Virtual trade shows are data-driven. You can greatly benefit from the comprehensive reports they offer. However, you’ll need to know what to track. This will help you understand your audience and optimize future events. Let’s see what you can do with these event reports.


1. Optimize Event Registrations

To get more people to come to your event, optimize your registrations first. Closely track the performance of your marketing efforts. Then, track your conversions from your Google Analytics account or your virtual event platform dashboard. Next, identify the channels that are bringing in the most conversions and optimize accordingly.

Moreover, you’d want to see how well your landing page is performing in terms of conversions. How far down the page is the form? Do you need to change the positioning of the form? Does above the fold work better than below the fold? How many form fields get you the best conversions?

Running A/B tests with these options in mind is a great way to optimize your landing page and registration forms. If you start your marketing efforts early, you’ll also have more time to optimize them for the best results.

2. Understand Your Demographic

You should know your target audience well. This way, you can tailor their event experience for them.

To do this, ask your attendees questions such as the following:

  • What are your areas of interest?
  • Which exhibitors are you most interested in speaking to?
  • What are you hoping to achieve from this trade show?

Data from these questions will help you offer a more personalized experience to each of your attendees. However, long forms are only a hurdle to registration. Save these questions for after your prospects have entered your event funnel. Here are the options we recommend:

  • After sign-up, send an optional follow-up email that asks recipients what they’d like to see.
  • After entry, ask questions from the event page so you can customize the experience.
  • Use a virtual event platform that lets attendees update their profiles from within the event. That way, it’s less work for the organizer, and attendees have control over the information others see at the event.

3. Learning Audience Preferences

Once the event goes live, it’s time to learn what aspects of your trade show are fan favorites. Track attendee journeys during the event. Then, learn about the booths they visit, the representatives they talk to, the speaker sessions that get the most attention, and so on.

Remember to only use a virtual event platform that collects this data for you. This kind of platform will help you get in-depth attendee insights that you can use to optimize future events. Furthermore, the reporting module will provide data such as:

  • Views for each booth
  • Time spent at each booth
  • Time spent on each page
  • The average time users were online
  • Registrations vs. attendance
  • Number of resource downloads
  • CTR for exhibitor websites

Each of these data points will tell you what aspect of your event was a success. In addition, it will show what kind of content performed the best at your trade show.

4. Post-Event Analytics

Another way to get more data out of your virtual trade show is to send an event follow-up survey. Such a survey will ask attendees how their experience with the event was and include questions such as the following:

  • What was your goal of attending the event?
  • What are some areas we can improve for you?
  • How would you rate the following on a scale of one to five: sessions, networking, exhibitors, duration of the event, and so on.

Email this survey to all your attendees and analyze the data you collect.

Cost Comparison – Physical vs. Virtual Trade Show

Without a doubt, pricing plays a crucial role in deciding which option to opt for. So, if you’re here, you’re probably looking for a cost-effective solution that gives you more value in return for your money. Let’s break it down so you can see for yourself.

  • Venue Rental – Based on its capacity, rental costs are a given expense. However, with virtual trade shows, you don’t have to book a physical space to accommodate attendees.
  • Setup & Equipment – Stage, booths, information desk, lobby, and the list goes on. At a physical event, building a respectable show is one of the biggest challenges for every organizer. That’s where virtual trade shows make their winning run once again.
  • Hospitality – You can’t be a host without providing your guests with refreshments and other miscellaneous items. Virtual trade shows free you of all your hospitality duties.
  • Staffing – It can be quite taxing on your staff to manage a physical trade show. With virtual trade shows, the team providing you with the service takes care of all the legwork. With constant assistance, your event is managed by a team of professionals remotely.
  • Travel & Stay – For any key speaker that travels to your event, you are usually bound to incorporate travel and stay into your cost. Fortunately, you can now invite speakers from across the globe without paying for their travel to ensure their presence at your event.

While physical trade shows have been popular for a number of trade show organizers in the past, the high costs and very limited reach have compelled most of them to switch to virtual alternatives. After all, the smartest business owners are the ones that optimize their strategies and use cost-effective means to generate huge profits.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the meaning of a virtual trade show?

A virtual trade show has a dynamic 3D environment, resembling that of a physical show, coupled with tools that engage a global audience. This makes it accessible for anyone with an internet device. 

2. How do you create a virtual trade show?

With a user friendly event builder, and a dedicated project management team, creating a virtual trade show could not be any easier.

3. Are virtual trade shows worth it?

Virtual trade shows are becoming highly popular. This is because they eliminate issues such as difficult event planning, poor audience turnout, limited reach, and sky-high costs. While increasing ROI and global reach.

4. How does a virtual trade show work?

With a 3D virtual environment, your virtual trade show can now have everything from a virtual lobby, an auditorium, and an exhibit hall. Attendees can browse exhibitor booths and find out more from each. 

5. What do you do in a virtual booth?

A virtual booth is where an exhibitor presents their product or service. It is a much smaller space within a larger event. The aim is to increase brand awareness, and generate meaningful conversation with participants. One can include static text, logos, banners, video and chat options.


Trade shows are a great way of allowing businesses of all sizes, to promote their brand and showcase their offerings to a diverse group of individuals. They provide you with an enormous opportunity to generate qualified leads and skyrocket your sales. But none of this is really profitable if it has to come at the cost of extensive resources and work.

Hence, virtual trade shows are now redefining the way businesses can maximize their profits and keep the environment healthy. And guess what? The opportunities are just beginning to blossom as your business is now growing beyond borders.

Virtual Trade Show: The Ultimate Guide (2020)

Brianne Snell

Brianne is a Content Manager at vFairs. She has over 8 years of experience planning and creating content for IT and SaaS organizations. When she isn't sharing her excitement for virtual and hybrid events, you can find her doing Pilates, bingeing pop culture podcasts and hanging out with her dog, Charlotte.


Virtual Trade Show: The Ultimate Guide (2020)

Brianne Snell

Brianne is a Content Manager at vFairs. She has over 8 years of experience planning and creating content for IT and SaaS organizations. When she isn't sharing her excitement for virtual and hybrid events, you can find her doing Pilates, bingeing pop culture podcasts and hanging out with her dog, Charlotte.

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