5 Ways to Help Exhibitors Transition From In-person to Virtual Events

November 10, 2020

Falguni Jain

Falguni Jain is a business development professional turned content marketer for Hubilo, a virtual event platform with notable global clients that include the UN, Siemens, GITEX, NYU, AWS and Tech In Asia.

As you consider shifting your next trade show online, make sure to focus on your exhibitors. While virtual events are a new format for almost all the stakeholders involved, exhibitors in particular may be apprehensive about this change. It is important you convey to them, that regardless of where you host the event, they will get the same return on investment.  

Here’s how you can live up to that promise:

  1. Customizable Exhibitor Booths 

Enable your exhibitors to create highly personalized professional profiles on your virtual event platform. In the absence of physical stalls, they need a dedicated space to showcase themselves. For this, you can give them a variety of opportunities. In their respective booths, exhibitors can put up image or autoplay video banners, share their contact details, add information about themselves in the description box, showcase their products and offerings through videos and images, provide their social links, upload brochures and other downloadable content, and even add profiles of team members that visitors can meet or chat with.

  1. Sponsorship and Branding Opportunities

Exhibitors may want to increase their visibility further. Make sure you are prepared for the same. Give them the option to enhance their visibility by letting them pick a booth size (small, medium or large) or via featured slots on the website landing page, reception/homepage and the exhibitors’ page or through a banner displayed across the event. Similarly, give them the option to get highlighted in event-related communication, such as in emails and push notifications sent to attendees (e.g. send out a notification saying “Have you checked out xyz exhibitor yet?”, that will appear on attendees’ side pane). Also, let exhibitors sponsor sessions and get a clickable logo displayed on the agenda page, which will directly take visitors to their booths. 

Another interesting way is hosting branded contests. Attendees are always enthusiastic about participating in virtual contests and it is unlikely they will miss seeing the name and logo of who sponsored the contest. To take this a step further, host exhibitor-oriented contests like an exhibitor hall scavenger hunt, where attendees will be motivated to visit the exhibitors’ booths and interact with them, to get answers to questions asked in the task. As a complement to such contests, allow exhibitors to sponsor prizes in the form of gift cards or even a free annual subscription to a service they offer. 

  1. Networking and Matchmaking

Let attendees engage with the exhibitors’ team members (and vice versa) through the virtual event platform’s networking feature. They can send chats to ask queries or display their interest in the exhibitor’s offering or even schedule meetings with any team member. 

Similarly, exhibitors can reach out to attendees who are their hot leads and initiate a conversation. The best part is that using the in-built matchmaking functionality of the platform, both the attendees and exhibitors can receive smart recommendations of who they should connect with. 

  1. Content Delivery

Give exhibitors the opportunity to host a mid-day session where they can introduce themselves to the attendees and talk about a topic related to their product or service. The sessions’ length may vary depending on what the exhibitor wants to talk about. Another option is to set up a breakout room with open access, where attendees can join in to receive an exclusive product demonstration from the exhibitor or participate in some activity arranged by him.

  1. Event Analytics and Lead Generation  

Provide your exhibitors useful insights on leads by giving them access to the analytics dashboard. This can include information such as:

  • The number of profile views
  • Who viewed the profile
  • Number of document downloads and who downloaded them
  • Number of chats and meetings scheduled with their team members
  • Number of CTA clicks
  • Profile rating score
  • Number of product image/video views
  • Number of clicks on social links and which attendees took those actions

Furthermore, use the virtual event platform’s functionality to auto-assign engagement points to each attendee and mark them as hot or cold leads, so that exhibitors know who to approach first. Finally, allow them to download a detailed report of this data, to view it even after the event is over.

Exhibitors are why trade shows exist in the first place. Whether in-person or virtual, make sure you craft an event that is oriented around fulfilling their needs.


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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.