Leveraging Virtual Trade Show Events as an Attendee

Eight months into the pandemic, virtual trade show events have proven their unique value. Which means for those who thought they could coast until in-person events come back online—it’s time to get moving.

virtual trade show eventsOn November 21st, MEET released the final podcast to a 3-part series: Leveraging Virtual Trade Show Participation

See: Part 1: Strategy, Part 2: Exhibiting, Part 3: Attending 

In this final episode, Kelly Kenney walks us through tips for getting the most out of virtual platforms as an attendee and what unique opportunities virtual events have to offer for differentiating yourself.

First and foremost, know your tech

We all know how to walk into a room and meet people. This is not the case with virtual trade show technology and those who are experts are quickly able to differentiate themselves from other attendees.

“The tech’s either going to work for you or against you,” shared Kelly. “What we’re finding is that it’s really easy to differentiate yourself at an event if you understand the tech and use every facet of the event. A lot of people end up being invisible because they don’t know how to leverage the technology.”

The technology is your roadmap—helping you to physically work your way through the virtual trade show floor and content. But beyond being present, you also need to know how to get results.

Five steps to leveraging virtual trade show events

Fortunately there are many aspects of your in-person event strategy that can be applied to virtual. Here’s the hit list:

  • Complete your profile as early as possible before the event. The majority of visitors fail to do this and miss out on valuable networking opportunities, making this the easiest way to differentiate yourself from other attendees.
  • Get comfortable with the technology. Sign on early and practice moving through the navigation tools.
  • Look at the agenda–the topics and workshops—and have few good questions on hand for the chat or Q&A time.
  • Engage in preset meetings (some platforms will suggest connections for you)
  • Show-up and follow-up after your meetings!

In essence, be vocal and proactive. “You can’t just sit there and drink your coffee and watch. You have to jump in, ask questions, interact positively, and be seen!”

A behavior you want to avoid

As is the case with all in-person events, there is a code of conduct with virtual. Unfortunately, with so many new players in the game, we still see a lot of cringe-worthy behaviors.

virtual trade show eventsKnowing when and where to be self-promotional is important. Workshops are not these spaces, and yet too often we see attendees (often competitors) using the chat feature to self-promote.

Alternatively, make thoughtful, on-topic comments that do not distract from the context of the presentation.

“Making yourself seen is not about announcing that you’re in the room,” shares Kelly.

“The neat thing about virtual is that you’re able to see what everybody’s thinking during the presentation in the chat. You don’t get that in-person. Pay attention to what’s in the chat, who is saying it, and have a few prepared questions or relevant points to get their attention and prompt them to want to connect with you.”

Exploring virtual booths and exhibits

There are some key advantages to walking the virtual trade show floor. According to Kelly, it can be more relaxing but just as informative as in-person. “Instead of feeling like everybody’s looking at you when you enter a booth and hoping to engage you, virtual allows you to take your time and explore everything the booth has to offer.”

Pro Tip: When you virtually walk into a booth, touch everything. Whether it’s a video, a live chat or a paper to download, it’s helpful to get the full experience of what is being offered.

It’s also a great opportunity to meet your competitors.

“I love these virtual shows to really get an understanding of the vibe of my competitor, their offerings and how we differentiate. I’ll even stop by and say something like: “This is a really interesting booth. We’re in the same industry and I’m glad that you’re at this show. How did you decide to come?”

The future is hybrid

While a reasonable number of in-person events are projected to come back online by summer or fall 2021, evidence suggests the future will be a hybrid model. Therefore, how should scaling companies plan to use the next six to nine months to prepare for the future of trade shows and event marketing?

Given their low barrier to entry, virtual trade show events are ideal for exploring new market segments and buyer personas, engaging in rapid A/B testing, and checking out shows that you wouldn’t have looked at in the past.

“The virtual aspect is such a boost to events in general. We recommend leveraging their unique assets now while they are plentiful, cheap and the playing field is even in that everyone is learning together.”

However, a word of warning–the playing field will not remain that way.  From Kelly’s perspective: “By year-end there’s going to be people who are far exceeding the status quo because they understand the virtual format and are leveraging it to the hilt.

In summary, it’s time to get on board with virtual events.

“You will be outpaced quickly if you stand by. And if you do them well, virtual events will accelerate your results.”

For more tips on leveraging your attendance at virtual trade show events, like how to fill up your networking table, effectively multi-task, and manage team participation, check out the full podcast.


MEET (meetroi.com) helps international B2B growth companies soft-land and scale in the U.S. through in-person and virtual trade shows and events. MEET’s processes help its clients ramp-up sales quickly and maintain a steady stream of high-quality prospects going forward. Contact Bill Kenney for a no-obligation conversation: bill@meetroi.com or +1 (860) 573-4821.


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