Virtual Trade Shows 101 for the Rest of 2020, 2021 & Beyond

If you are in Industrial B2B sales, you most likely realized as the year went on from COVID-19 and trade shows became canceled… you needed to find a new way to get in front of your customers. As a result, I assume you have done at least one virtual trade show so far this year and might do another.

If you are like me, you have your fingers crossed that in 2021 you at least get to do a couple of in-person shows because you can develop a good (or bad) relationship much more quickly than compared to a virtual one.

I am thinking that even if we do have live shows in 2021, we still might want to consider virtual trade shows, or at least some type of hybrid shows (in-person & virtual) that are starting to pop-up. 


They are less expensive, and as the Gartner Future of Sales Report states, digital will be an essential part of sales and marketing’s future.

From Gartner Future of Sales Report

“Over the next five years, an even greater rise in digital interactions between buyers and suppliers will break traditional sales models.” 

“The Gartner Future of Sales 2025 report predicts that by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels. Chief sales officers (CSOs) and other senior sales leaders must accept that buying preferences have permanently changed and, as a result, so too will the role of sellers.”

If this is the case, there are two things we need to start planning for moving forward.

  1. Getting better at virtual trade shows.
  2. Decide what shows might be useful to add to our 2021 as virtual compared to in-person.

How do we get better at virtual trade shows?

  1. Treat it exactly like a live show.
  2. Assign one or two sales team members to attend exhibit hall’s digital space open hours. 
  3. Make sure they attend or find a replacement!
  4. Ensure they spend at least two weeks before sending invites to attendees to visit the booth/digital booth or arrange for a specifically timed meeting.
  5. Set goals for them to meet. For example, get 10 appointments and 20 people to stop by during the show.
  6. Ensure they attend some of the presentations, as it is a great way to see other attendees and reach out. This way, they can honestly say…”I saw you attended the last presentation….What did you think?” as an opening line.
  7. Have at least four video’s and white papers to share with attendees when they ask for what you offer.
  8. Do a post-show meeting to discover what worked and what did not. Even the little things.
  9. Decide if the show is worth doing virtual the next year or not. 
  10. Get a document together of how it could have improved as a show. You may find something you can find as valuable information in another way. 

How to determine what shows to do virtually in 2021: 

  1. Ask around LinkedIn or with current contacts to see what others thought of the show.
  2. Did you like the software platform the organizers use? 
  3. If not, offer the show positive feedback so the organizers see you care and that’s part of your reputation in the industry.
  4. How many total people attended, and what the average attendance was at each presentation?
  5. Find out how many more attendees the organizer got to register compared to the in-person show the year before?
  6. Did you or will you get any business from the show?
  7. If you believe you will get new business. How does it compare to a live show?

Need help with your virtual trade show? Give me a ring to discuss how I can assist you in making the show worthwhile. [email protected].