The pandemic is giving new impetus to virtual events, and present-day event organizers like you are rising to the challenge of using virtual events platforms and maximizing events engagement. While some exhibitors might be scornful of their participation in virtual booths due to fear of lack of efficiency and profitability of their investment, virtual events are a watershed in business history. In trade shows, conferences, and networking gatherings, organizations generate leads and get the word out about their brands.

Before you start recruiting appealing exhibitors for your virtual event, consider how you can help them get the utmost value of their investment through participating in your event. How can exhibitors ensure audience engagement and traffic to their virtual booth when they aren’t physically present on a conference floor? Here are ten tips worth sharing with your virtual event exhibitors that will give them peace of mind because they will know you create brand awareness paths, allow them to pass their message to attendees, and encourage attendees to act throughout the timeline of the event.

1. Advertise The Exhibitors Through Social Media Platforms

Your event’s attendees are people who can be prospects and eventually clients for your exhibitors. Social media marketing is a little played out, but we cannot stress enough social media’s gravity if utilized creatively, as a community-building tool. With the right social media practices from your side, your exhibitors can benefit from audience engagement and build long-lasting relationships with potential influencers and advocates. Before you inundate your audience with exhibitors-related social media posts, brace exhibitors for the cumulative notification pings they will start receiving on their business’s social accounts. A heads-up will help exhibitors prepare to engage with your audience, respond individually, and get to know your attendees’ interests. If you feel extra helpful, you can ask exhibitors to name the social media accounts that work for their business and are mostly used by their target audience.

There are heaps of ways to advertise exhibitors through social media and build audience interest and anticipation. For instance, you can post mentions and shoutouts by tagging exhibitors and showcasing their logos. Or, for brevity, you can share reasons for your attendees to check out the products and services of certain exhibitors. If exhibitors organize contests, have special offers, run giveaways, or launch new products, promote these on social media through reposting. Ask your attendees questions and offer them solutions by suggesting to look into an exhibitor. A tactic that has proven to work well with social media marketing is the fear of missing out — entice attendees to exhibitors by giving them hints and compelling reasons to do so, and pointing out what they are missing if they don’t.

Person typing an email

2. Email Attendees a Brochure with Information on Exhibitors Before The Event

Compiling a digital brochure with information on exhibitors is another excellent technique to help exhibitors improve their return on investment (ROI). Well before the event, ask exhibitors to send you a description of their company and product/service (e.g., number of years in business, accreditations, benefits to the customer, and solutions offered), as well as their logo and contact information. You can then use one of the many free online brochure makers to create a shareable PDF file or link, which you can email to attendees, post on social media, and add in event-related blog posts.

Thanks to the online brochure makers’ templates and customization options, you don’t have to be a graphic designer to compose an interactive brochure with embedded videos and links. If you are reminiscing about printed pamphlets, you can give your brochure a vintage touch with the page turn effect available at many brochure makers. Regardless of the visuals you choose, it’s essential to incorporate a call to action to connect the attendees with exhibitors. Be clear and don’t rely on the recipient to assume what you want them to do with the given information. Finally, keep the brochure short and sweet, focusing on your attendees’ interests and problems, which they can solve through the exhibitors.  

3. Help Connecting Exhibitors Who Serve The Same Segment

In your virtual event, not all exhibitors are direct competitors. Identify and group vendors in the same category, but who aren’t selling a similar product or service — instead, they complement each other’s products or services. Then, help them connect and collaborate before and during the event. Who knows? They may even develop partnerships in the future. Now, you may ask how this thoughtful action will enhance exhibitors’ ROI. American writer, Helen Keller, has said: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Besides benefiting from each other’s knowledge and expertise, teamed exhibitors can drive traffic and leads to one another for larger exposure.

As a virtual event organizer, for your networking to be effective, inform exhibitors in advance about the other vendors that will be taking part in the event. Where necessary, you can facilitate the introductions. During the event, organize special mixers dedicated to partnering and encourage exhibitors to connect with the other exhibitors, who are not direct competitors. Sometimes, event exhibitors are too anxious to attract attendees. As a result, they neglect how much they can benefit from each other. At the end of the day, constructive collaboration will show on the industry as a whole. Who doesn’t want the segment they are in to thrive?  

4. Have Exhibitors Arrange Virtual Workshops With Attendees

A great vendor event idea that will make exhibitors feel valued is to give them virtual space and time slots for workshops with attendees interested in their product or service. On Balloon, exhibitors can host virtual workshops and moderate live sessions from their virtual booth. During these sessions, participating exhibitors can demonstrate their product or talk about a particular problem or challenge they solve with their service while attendees can raise their questions. But interaction with attendees doesn’t have to stop at the end of the workshop. Exhibitors may encourage participants to reach out to the company’s support staff to receive additional information or leave their feedback.

A different and a bit more intensive style of exhibitors’ virtual workshop is to have a few assemblies of several exhibitors each. During these sessions, exhibitors will have a few minutes strictly to present their brand and take questions. In the end, you can include an audience engagement game where attendees vote for the best exhibitor. Virtual workshops with attendees aren’t just a savvy way to ensure that exhibitors’ ROI isn’t dropping but also to improve engagement at virtual events.

Person participating at a virtual workshop

5. Award Prizes to Attendees

Organizing a virtual event and being accountable for exhibitors’ satisfaction with their performance is understandably too much pressure. To lighten the atmosphere (and secure interaction between exhibitors and attendees), get your exhibitors to create fun competitions and award attractive prizes. For example, individuals who sign-up for exhibitor’s newsletter in the next 24 hours will enter a draw to win a 30-day free trial of the exhibitor’s X service. On Balloon, premium and premium-plus exhibitor booths feature a lead generation button, which can be renamed per the exhibitor's choice. Via this call to action, exhibitors can collect attendees' details to use in the future and give awards and offers that will drive traffic to their home page and social media profiles.

As the event organizer, you can take control of competitions and awards in your hands. For instance, you can launch a social media competition where your event’s attendees must post new knowledge obtained during Day 1 of the event with the event’s unique hashtag. At the end of the event, the best quote will win a prize in the form of a product or service, awarded by one of the exhibitors.

6. Display Exhibitors Comments on the Virtual Event

Accepting comments and questions from attendees during the event is an excellent, engaging practice that can induce a feeling of togetherness among attendees and appreciation towards you for being an active listener. It may sound simple, and most virtual event platforms have comments or live chat tool, but it works miracles with audience engagement on which your event’s success relies exceedingly. Now, consider adding exhibitors into the game of active engagement and sharing by allowing their comments to be displayed and picked out by attendees. This will allow exhibitors to offer advice within the spectrum of their expertise, approach prospects from a specialist’s point, and take the pulse of potential customers. But exhibitors don’t have to always act as a know-all; they can also ask questions and seek feedback and possibilities to improve.

7. Allow Exhibitors to Advertise Their Products or Services in Breakout Sessions

Exhibitors aspire to make the most of an event, meaning that breaks are better filled with activities and used to their advantage than function as time off. Encourage exhibitors to organize nimble networking or training sessions concerning their product or service during breaks never to feel they are wasting time (and money) while in your event. However, when putting together breakout sessions, exhibitors should keep in mind that their audience may be already a bit tired and tend to disengage. So, the sessions should be short, fun, and captivating — not lengthy, monotonous, sales monologues.

When inviting exhibitors to participate in breakout sessions, remind them that this is an opportunity to advertise their brand and get to know their prospects. Short introductions by participants, meaningful mingling, and vivid conversations can be the nexus between sales and improvement of a product or service. Breakout sessions are an excellent time for exhibitors to bring up their deficiencies and extract feedback.  

8. Survey Attendees and Pair Them With Exhibitors

Researching your audience is the best way to get to know them; understand what matters to them, and evaluate their expectations. Before starting your virtual event, engage with the attendees-to-be by asking questions via a pre-event survey. Questions, a combination of open-ended and multiple-choice, can go like this: Why did you choose to attend this event? What are you hoping to gain with your attendance? Which speakers, sessions, and exhibitors are you most excited about? Are you interested in hearing from our exhibitors? Which social media platform do you use the most? Are you familiar with virtual events platforms?  

However, a survey is of no value until answered and submitted. To increase the likelihood of receiving responses, keep your survey short, and distribute it across all communication channels. Once you have profiled your attendees-to-be, you can proceed with the matchmaking. Connecting exhibitors with the right people can be helpful, efficient, and profitable. To determine if your matchmaking skills are up to standard, after the event, you can address the exhibitors: How relevant was the audience for your business? Did you engage with attendees? Did your participation investment generate gain or loss?  

Person looking at a mobile phone screen

9. Help Exhibitors Find Customer or Jobs

Helping exhibitors get more sales has never been easier than it is with virtual events. Forget worn out attendees who have walked for hours before arriving at your booth. Thanks to virtual event platforms like Balloon, you can navigate an event in milliseconds! How convenient and efficient, right?

To support exhibitors in establishing rapport with your audience, send out a form to attendees to invite them to set up virtual one-on-one meetings with exhibitors whose product or service they are interested in. The objective is to support exhibitors showcase their expertise to potential customers by addressing them directly, networking with them, or giving the floor to influencers to be advocates for their product or service.

Since interaction with prospects is virtual, encourage exhibitors to make sure their website is up-to-date, and their social media accounts active to make it easy for prospects to contact them, know what they do, and order a product or buy a service. There’s nothing more off-putting than being keen on becoming a customer but not finding the avenue to it. Also, as an organizer, you can urge exhibitors to offer discounts and incentives to new customers with the expectation that they will become ambassadors of their product and generate more sales.

10. Plan Interactive Program for Virtual Events That Will Benefit Exhibitor

Audience engagement is the distillation of virtual events’ success. Thankfully, virtual event platforms like Balloon cater to inventive and ambitious organizers like you. From passionate speakers and interactive sessions to social media presence and virtual games, attendees will get hooked. The more attendees are sticking around the better chances exhibitors have to approach them and set their brand forth. Since exhibitors also benefit from your program, there’s no harm in including them in pre-event conversations about the set-up.

Encourage collaboration, be actively present, and share these tips with your virtual event's exhibitors to help them get more value out of their investment in participating in your event. You will see them soon at your next event and you will know why!

Looking to host your next virtual event with a list of outstanding exhibitors? Check out Balloon, and share with your exhibitors our dedicated resources to help them reach a wider audience.