The Ins and Outs of Virtual Trade Show Technology to Help Your Event Succeed
“Being human in the digital world is about building a digital world for humans.”
— Andrew Keen
In the course of digitalization, virtual trade shows have risen rapidly in popularity. In fact, they’ve become increasingly important ways to build customer engagement across industries. It’s tempting to “blame” this development on COVID-19. In reality, though, the ability to build digital experiences and displays for prospective and current customers both pre-dates and goes far beyond the current pandemic.
COVID-19, along with its restrictions on in-person events, has certainly contributed to the rise of digital trade show experiences. But rather than simply being forced into this virtual environment, companies are taking advantage of it largely due to three core, unique benefits:
Increasingly appealing virtual trade show technology opportunities to build more engaging virtual experiences.
More flexibility in timing, allowing audiences to participate based on their own schedule and without needing to plan their physical travel.
Lower budgetary constraints, further broadening trade show access to more audience segments and more people within participating organizations.
Meanwhile, virtual events also maintain the core benefits of traditional trade shows, which of course, continue to exist. You can still use it to bring together various members in a particular industry to display, demonstrate, and discuss their latest products and services. Done right, a virtual environment can even enhance these benefits.
You just have to get it right. In this post, we’ll cover the core components any successful virtual trade show should include. Then, we’ll dig deeper into the technology needs and solutions that help to build comprehensive, successful events. Let’s jump in.
6 Core Components of a Successful Virtual Trade Show
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to say that the best virtual events are driven by the right technology. In fact, technology is generally cited as the biggest reason why virtual events fail. The right technology, in turn, can build the baseline by providing these 6 core components of virtual trade shows.
No audience is the same. A trade show focused on industrial equipment will likely attract very different attendees than one focused on SaaS software. The ability to customize the environment thus becomes a crucial part of getting the virtual event right.
Customization, of course, can mean many things. In this case, we're talking about it in its most basic form. Rather than taking a platform's template setup, it becomes a sandbox that can shift around as needed.
In that environment, event coordinators can customize the look and functionality of the platform based on their audience and industry. The user interface becomes intuitive based on what that audience is used to, with the ability to further customize on an individual basis as needed.
2. Live Sessions With Q&A Components
A large part of traditional trade shows is the live interaction component between vendors and customers. And yet, according to one survey, only 20% of marketers stream their virtual events live.
That, in turn, presents a significant opportunity. Live-streaming features allow participants to react to sessions in real-time, asking questions and providing both comment and context in the process. Speakers get the same benefit of that live interaction, maximizing their opportunities to bring home the core points of their session.
That's only possible, of course, with integrated feature sets that enable live streaming within the larger trade show technology. Done right, it removes many of the barriers asynchronous events tend to face, creating a more engaging and interactive environment for everyone involved.
3. Live Chat Opportunities
At in-person events, what happens between sessions matters almost as much as the sessions themselves. This is the opportunity for connections, networking, and getting together with old friends or colleagues. In the venue lobby, at the coffee shop, or in the exhibit hall, vendors and would-be customers interact in a more casual format.
Integrating this feature in the virtual alternative becomes an essential component of creating a successful digital trade show. Through live chat functionality, event participants can meet and greet as needed, both individually and within-group chat sessions. The same technology can be leveraged for more interactive workshops, creating natural interaction and engagement.
4. Bottom-Up Application of Data
The customizability described above, of course, is only made possible through a platform that can leverage data to increase the relevance of the platform for your audience. The platform itself should be able to provide event and audience data that can be used to build your agenda, invite relevant speakers, and customize other details of the virtual trade show.
Part of that is planning. But another part consists of real-time tracking. Learn about the successful components of your trade show as it happens, then adjust your schedule or other details for the next day. Over time, you learn more about your audience and data that can help in future marketing and event planning efforts.
5. ROI Maximization
Naturally, trade show organizers need to realize a positive ROI to make their efforts worth the time and monetary investment. In virtual environments, that means supporting a few components designed to ensure a positive return on investment over time:
• Relevant sponsorship placements to get audience attention and attract companies looking to gain entry or make headway into the audience's industry.
• Session questionnaires that allow organizers to learn more about the successes and failures of their planning, building more successful trade shows as a result.
• Creation and utilization of a trade show app that increases both attendance and engagement at the virtual event.
6. ROI Tracking
Optimizing your virtual trade show for ROI, of course, only matters if you can actually prove that positive return to justify future investments. That's why the sixth, and perhaps most important component of any virtual trade show build is the ability to track your successes in a tangible, quantifiable way.
A platform supporting this component needs to be able to keep track of real-time insights from your audience interactions. You need to be able to tell what actions they take, and which of these actions can lead to revenue opportunities.
That, in turn, allows you to bring relevant data to your sponsors, in-depth metrics after the session that help them better understand what they got out of their own investment and why they should invest again next time. This double-layered ROI tracking can be vital to long-term success.
How Virtual Trade Show Technology Can Help Your
Put all of these six components together, and you begin to realize just how virtual trade show technology can help your business succeed. Break it down, and you come away with a few core insights:
The right platform allows you to put together an engaging, interactive event for your audience.
The right platform also allows you to connect your vendors and customers more closely.
The right platform customizes your event to your industry and audience, building a more natural connection than a simple videoconferencing session or static website ever could.
The right platform builds natural sponsorship opportunities that bring in vital revenue.
The right platform leverages data to provide insights for your sponsors, but also for your own planning and ROI tracking.
Of course, you have to get there first. More than just looking for a platform that incorporates all of these components, it helps to understand more about
the nuances of platform and app development for this purpose.
The Nuances of Virtual Trade Show Technology
We’ve been referring to platforms throughout this article for a reason. A modern virtual tradeshow has to be more than a single application, website, or live streaming software. It needs to be a comprehensive package, incorporating 4 core services that are worth discussing in more detail.
- A Custom Application
- Custom Backend Programming
- Custom Web Design
- Custom Business Intelligence
1 A Custom Application
In many ways, the application is still the core of the larger platform. As described above, it needs to be customized enough to match your audience and industry needs, hosting the core components from live chat to video functionality. It will also host core information about sessions, include room for sponsorship placements, and more.
2 Custom Backend Programming
Behind the app should be a strong set of code that enables the functionality. That’s not always easy to achieve, and where many platforms fall short. The programming enables crucial customization, but also provides the basis for data tracking that can help secure sponsorships and track your ROI.
3 Custom Web Design
Virtual trade shows, ideally, occur through multiple channels. Even if the conference itself proceeds through an application, a website tends to house a pre-trade show agenda, sign-up form, list of participating companies, and more. Moreover, the application itself benefits from intuitive, UI-optimized custom web design that creates a better user experience.
4 Custom Business Intelligence
Business intelligence is the process of turning data into relevant insights that can improve business decisions. In the virtual trade show tech context, it means being able to collect, track, and analyze data about the event, participants, and satisfaction rates in a way that’s tailored to your needs, leading to ongoing optimization of event planning and execution.
Integrating Virtual Trade Show Technology Into Your Systems
The final component of creating a successful virtual trade show is to build integrations into existing systems that turn the event into a natural extension of your platforms, rather than an isolated event that needs to be built-out entirely separately.
More specifically, that process relies on a few core integrations necessary to make the event a success:
Data integration, creating a successful flow back and forth between the trade show platform and your internal CRM lists, BI platforms, and more. This data integration is absolutely vital to ensure comprehensive ROI analysis after the event.
System integration, in some cases building the above-mentioned BI and CRM connections in a way that doesn’t just create data flows but also generates a more unified internal and external experience for all users.
Software integration, particularly if you can build your trade show platform to be consistent with other applications or software your users might need. That completes the process of bringing your trade show into the larger user journey rather than creating a separate entity.
How to Hire the Right Virtual Trade Show Technology
Ultimately, it all comes down to finding a partner who can help you not just build the next virtual trade show but provide the technology to build a virtual event that your audience will prefer above all others in the industry. That is difficult to accomplish. But, once you find the right partner, the search will be well worth it.
You need to understand the nuances involved, from the components of a great virtual trade show to the services that an application developer has to be able to provide. Once you do, that’s where we come in.
Our application services, Made in the USA, have been leveraged by a list of clients throughout the country that range from Fortune 500 to smaller, mid-sized companies. Organizations and customers in industries from healthcare to media have been able to appreciate the comprehensive services we provide.
This is Ayoka Systems. The custom software that gets developed in our shop comes from Arlington, deep in the heart of Texas. We’re less than a mile away from AT&T Stadium, and just like the Dallas Cowboys who call the stadium their home, we’re satisfied with nothing less than the best.
That means more than just building virtual trade show technology. It means continually expanding our collective custom software development knowledge and experience to build leading web-based applications. Our device, database, and application integration expertise have come in handy for all of our clients.
So let’s work together on your next virtual event. You’ll learn to love the collaborative, innovative nature of our team, from developers to project managers. But most importantly, you’ll love the platform we can build to make your next virtual trade show an unmitigated success.