Friday, August 21, 2020
Kellie Wostrel, APR

Trade shows and events are an opportunity to meet with current and potential customers, foster connections and educate media representatives on a brand’s latest products, services and innovations. But understandably, these large meetings of people in close proximity are not conducive to pandemics.

As many shows transition to at least semi-virtual formats, here’s what we’ve learned about staying connected:

1. Make Information Readily Available

Many trade show organizers are offering brands a “virtual booth,” where companies can upload presentations, collateral and other informational items. Visitors are able to enter a website and take a look around, viewing various exhibitors and downloading items at their leisure. Is your trade show presence virtual-friendly? Unlike in-person events, virtual trade shows are 24/7, and you might not be there to answer questions, facilitate conversations and control information. So, your information needs to be available, accessible and online-friendly. Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Are your collateral materials and media kits ready in a digital format?
  • Are they easily viewable on mobile?
  • Are they gathered, organized, up-to-date and ready to deploy?

2. Call (or Email) for Backup

While much of what is being offered in the virtual event space is fairly turnkey, there will always be members of your target audience who have challenges with digital access. Don’t overestimate your audience’s ability to use technology. Be sure to have a back-up plan to reach your target audience, especially if something goes wrong. That might mean including direct contact information for key people, a recorded presentation you can send later (with a personal note), or other more traditional follow-up tactics like phone calls.

3. Make it Easy for Trade Media

The pandemic has been hard on a lot of industries, and some media outlets are working with skeleton crews. Fewer editors and broadcasters are covering more ground than ever before, putting incredible value on proactive media outreach and a strong media kit.

At Swanson Russell, we’re connecting brands with editors and broadcasters through virtual media tours, where we can feature innovations, studies, trends and new products/services. It’s critical to make it easy for media to gather content and communicate key topics and messages. By doing this, we are fostering strong relationships.

It’s also essential to create a comprehensive media kit that helps the media create educated content as effortlessly as possible, with digital friendly formats like soundbites, ready-to-run written articles, fact sheets, news releases, recorded presentations, b-roll video and high-resolution photography.

4. Keep it Personal

Face-to-face meetings may be off the table, but personal outreach is still key. At Swanson Russell, we’re finding ways to create those connections, like an incentive mailer we created for one client’s sales force that encouraged follow-up with their key customers and prospects.

5. Your Content Matters Even More

Content has always been king, but now more than ever. Existing pieces like podcasts and online industry roundtables are great additions to a “virtual booth.” And you don’t have to create that virtual booth from scratch: existing podcasts, e-newsletters, social content and web content, if timely and relevant, are perfect fits. Anything you create specifically for a virtual trade show can and should be leveraged across your existing platforms. Regardless, a holistic and comprehensive content plan will create a strong virtual trade show presence — and plenty of material for the months after the show.

Ultimately, embrace the fact that “virtual” is the new reality, at least for now. The pandemic has challenged us to rethink how we communicate with others, but it’s also an opportunity to learn what we can do better. Virtual trade shows force us to learn new ways to connect, and you might find that some of those new methods are a good fit, even in a post-pandemic world.