How to plan a virtual trade show

The Ultimate Guide to A Virtual Trade Show

Plan a successful virtual trade show with the help of Hubilo! Learn how to obtain vendors, invite guests and more in this informative guide.
October 29, 2022

Since the beginning of the pandemic, most events that would have been held in person have made the transition to being held virtually. From conferences and seminars to expos, the transition has miraculously worked for everyone - and trade shows are no exception! We’ll cover how to best host a virtual trade show, from benefits to the many steps to take for a successful event.  

What Is A Virtual Trade Show?

A virtual trade show is an event where goods are sold and services can be rendered, but on an online platform. Companies of all kinds can come together and display their goods and services, all through an online forum. Using this online platform can even help companies make sales. The main purpose of a trade show is to generate income, so playing to that strength will benefit everyone! 

Benefits of a Virtual Trade Show

What are the benefits of a virtual trade show?

1. Lower Costs

With a virtual trade show, event organizers don't need to spend money on physical booths, a venue and branding on items that may be wasted after the trade show is over. With a virtual trade show, the majority of your funds can be spent on marketing your event! A virtual trade show is able to host guests and vendors from all over the world, without the price tag of flying everyone in. More vendors will have the opportunity to display their goods and services online, which will generate more revenue. The more vendors you have, the more successful your trade show will be! 

2. Greater Global Outreach

In times before the pandemic, it might have been a challenge to gather vendors from all over the world. Vendors might not have been able to travel and faced time restrictions, scheduling conflicts, etc. With a virtual trade show, event organizers are able to reach out to companies and vendors that might not be able to attend an in-person trade show! Vendors from all corners of the globe may have unique goods and services that they offer, and having those vendors attend your event will bring new and fresh ideas to your trade shows! When planning for future trade shows, keep these vendors in mind and have them return! 

3. Environmentally Friendly

Unfortunately, in-person trade shows create thousands of pounds of waste, from paper to food waste. When hosting a virtual trade show, there is no waste that accumulates from your guests. Reducing your carbon footprint is so important and you can be proud of your environmentally-friendly trade show. Another benefit to having a virtual trade show is the cutting down on travel, which only adds to climate change. 

4. Provide Greater ROI Than In-Person Trade Shows

As we stated earlier, with a virtual trade show, more guests and vendors are able to attend, as opposed to an in-person trade show. When you have more guests attending, your vendors will see more revenue and greater ROI. As a vendor, when attending an event, your ROI is a main reason for attending. Connecting with guests and letting them know about your company and getting to know them on a personal level will encourage them to make a purchase and hopefully become a returning customer! 

5. Increased Accessibility

Thanks to the rise of virtual trade shows, it gives an opportunity to everyone who is interested to attend, no matter what their situation may be! Virtual trade shows can reach a wider audience, as guests who are at home can be immersed right into the action! As we have seen at some in-person events, some guests may not be able to attend for a number of reasons. With a virtual trade show, no one needs to worry about traveling, or time away from their families. 

6. Meet With Interested Attendees

When hosting virtual events, as we have discussed, you may see an increase in guests that you don’t know, as they can attend your event from anywhere! If this is the case, you may want to set up a meeting with these guests, to get a better understanding of who they are before the event begins! You may ask them questions about how they heard about your event and what they expect to learn from your event! 

9 Features To Include In A Virtual Trade Show

Whether you’re looking to plan or attend a virtual trade show, there are some key features that you should look for! These features will help you have a fantastic event: 

1. Trade Show App

One of the most important features of hosting a virtual trade show is the use of an event app! Within the app, event organizers are able to have all of your vendors and guest information in one place. Guests are able to check in to the trade show, see a compiled list of vendors, and see a “floor plan” for the event. All of the trade show information is at the fingertips of your guests and vendors, and both parties will be able to refer back to any notes they may take! 

2. Networking Chat

Within the trade show app, event organizers are able to provide a tab for networking! Even though your guests and vendors can’t gather in person, they should still be able to network with everyone! An app can be designed to take down names, numbers, and information about anyone you may meet at a trade show! Rather than attending in person and trading business cards that you may lose, all of the information for your new connections is easily accessible right in the app!

3. Event Announcements

Because virtual trade shows are able to happen more often than in-person events, these events need to be marketed in a timely manner! Whenever event organizers begin to gather information for a new trade show, they can create an announcement that can be sent out to all past vendors and guests. This announcement doesn’t need to have every single detail, but a date, time and some general information can let potential guests and vendors know about it! The event can be kept right in the trade show app and will send reminders on when to purchase tickets or even have a countdown to the event! 

4. Live Webinar Chats

If your guests take a particular liking to a certain vendor, and they would like to speak to them further, setting up webinar chats can help create that connection! Both parties can log onto a video chat and continue the conversation!  This can also be done right through the app! 

5. Using Reports To Measure Event Success

In order to accurately determine if your event was a success, using reports, analytics and feedback will help! Analytics help to gauge audience registration vs attendance, and you can get a better understanding of what worked and what didn’t work. Understanding the metrics will help to see what ended up being successful in your event, and what could maybe be improved for any future events. 

6. Gamification

Boost your audience engagement with having a gamification portion of your virtual trade show! Games can be as simple as trivia, bingo or online card games! Adding this feature into your virtual trade show will allow your guests to take a break and relax their mind. Gamification can also increase your brand exposure on social media! 

7. Custom Designs And Layouts For Branded Booths

As each vendor registers for your virtual trade show, you can ask if they have a certain design they would prefer for their booth! This design may include their company colors or logos, and can be easily found on a floor layout! As for the floor layout, try to keep like-businesses together! By doing this, the floor layout will be smooth and cohesive. Your guests can visit businesses in the same realm, then head to the next section for a new batch of businesses. 

8. Stunning 3D Designs To Wow Audiences

Slideshows can become a mundane way to show potential customers what your company does. Instead, look into 3D designs to showcase your business! This will not only be exciting for your customers to experience this, but the buzz around your business will increase steadily! Customers can post on social media about the experience they had with your 3D designs, which will catch the attention of others!

9. Potential E-Commerce Platforms To Enable On The Spot Sales

Your business might do so well at the virtual trade show that customers will want to purchase products right then and there! If this is the case, be sure to have a platform set in place to make sales! It can be seen on both the customer end and the business end that a transaction was made and receipts can even be given virtually to your customers! 

7 Exciting Virtual Trade Show Ideas

The great thing about virtual trade shows is you are able to plan any kind of trade show and execute it flawlessly! These 3 virtual trade show ideas will help to generate funds and will be an overall success for your vendors and guests. 

1. Technology Show

As we have seen over the past 20 years, technology has boomed onto the scene at a rapid rate. Technology is ever changing, and using a virtual trade show is a great way to showcase any new technology. Vendors are able to display and use new technology, and answer any questions their guests may have. If the technology is online, they may even be able to have guests try it out for themselves! 

2. Product Launch

Companies are constantly creating new products, and what better audience to showcase to than a trade show audience! Vendors are even able to have products for purchase if the guests enjoy their product enough.

3. Food Show

While it’s impossible to physically taste food at a virtual food trade show, you are, however, able to learn about new foods! Food companies are always coming up with new ideas for food, or even new variations of an old favorite. Vendors need to thoroughly explain the new foods, as the guests aren’t able to taste test. However, if the foods pique the interest of the guests, vendors are able to take orders right away and generate funds! 

4. Hold Networking Competitions

When hosting a networking event, be sure to add an incentive program for your audience. Encouraging your guests to interact and network with each other as well as vendors will ensure that your guests meet as many people as possible. Let your guests know there will be a prize for the most connections made, and that winner can be crowned as “Top Networker” for the event. A friendly competition between your guests is all in good fun, plus it allows your guests to talk to their peers and vendors they might not have met before! 

5. Organize A Group Chat

Group chats can help bring your guests together to discuss thoughts, ideas and any concerns they may have. Group chats can be made small or large, depending on the number of guests you have attending your trade show. Guests can chat with vendors as well within these group chats, creating a stronger connection with them. Small group chats can be a great icebreaker into a larger networking opportunity. 

6. Display Digital Brochures

Digital brochures are great to use for a virtual trade show, as they can be updated in real time to showcase products and vendors. Digital brochures can also be designed to respond to a customer’s touch or voice, and can also be designed to work in tandem with a mobile app! If your vendors choose to use a digital brochure to display their business, encourage them to be creative! The use of creativity will help to draw in potential customers and will be a user experience that customers will remember! 

7. Create Live Product Demos

In order to correctly inform your potential customers about the products you’re selling, create a demo video explaining how to use the product and the benefits of it. By doing these demos live, customers will feel like they are part of the action and will be able to see how the product works in real time. From there, your customers should be able to try the product for themselves, and even be able to purchase the product if they choose to! 

Virtual Trade Show Example 


One of the most famous examples of a trade show is the giant SXSW festival held in Austin, Texas every year. This trade show has exhibitions for creative industries, a conference and even a music festival. The trade show portion of the festival can be done through virtual reality, allowing guests to be immersed in a totally different world! This approach is a great and different way to display your vendors at a trade show! 

Steps for prepping a virtual trade show

How To Create A Virtual Trade Show

Planning for a virtual trade show is just like planning an in-person trade show, except it’s just online! Ensuring that your vendors are able to communicate with your guests will be a pivotal part of your event success. Following these steps will ensure you have a successful virtual trade show that vendors and guests will want to return to in the future! 

1. Obtain Vendors

As you plan out your virtual trade show, you’ll want to make sure you’re able to obtain the right vendors. Select vendors who have a solid reputation within your industry and who will be able to provide insightful products or services to your trade show guests. 

2. Invite Guests 

Just as you’d carefully select the vendors you’d like for your virtual trade show, you should consider the guests you want to invite as well! Make a list of the ideal types of guests you’d want to invite to your event and you can begin to plan out the invite process for those guests. 

3. Create A Plan & Timeline

Creating a plan for your virtual trade show will be the blueprint for how smoothly your event is going to run! Including times for “setup” and “breakdown” for your vendors will allow them to collect themselves before the guests arrive. Creating a timeline for the event and letting everyone know how the event will flow will leave no room for confusion on what is coming next. Be sure to add in time for networking between guests so they can connect with one another! 

4. Marketing And Branding

Without marketing, how would anybody know about your event? Marketing can be done in a variety of ways, and all of them can be tailored to fit the needs of your event! Event marketing can be done through email, social media and even notifications on the app. Providing as much information about the event will be beneficial to both the guests and vendors. Instructing your guests to register for the event as well as letting them know which vendors will be there will give them a better idea of what type of vendors will be there! 

5. Audio & Visual Checks

With the use of technology, we all know what challenges that can potentially arise. When planning for a virtual trade show, be sure to add in a time for all vendors to do audio and visual checks, to ensure that all of their technology is working properly. If you allow your vendors to have that buffer time to ensure all of their technology is working correctly, you don’t have to worry about any hiccups when the guests arrive! 

6. Send Swag

As we have seen in the past, swag bags have always been a topic of conversation between your attendees and they can be customized to the type of event you are having! If your virtual trade show is technology based, your swag bag may include items such as headphones, portable speakers or even branded clothing items! Most swag bag items are able to be branded with your company name or logo, and your vendor's name can also be branded on items as well. Swag bags can also be sent right to your guest’s house, as they will not be attending the event in person. 

7. Have an IT Section For Questions

As stated above, technology can present challenges, which may affect your event. Before the virtual trade show begins, be sure to have an IT department available to answer any questions you or your guests may have! If you arrange to combat any technology issues before the event, if any issues arise during the event, you have the right people in place to help solve the problem. 

Your Virtual Trade Show Checklist

Creating a virtual trade show has just as many details to hash out as an in-person event! Following this checklist will help you, as the event organizer, to pull off a fun and successful virtual trade show. 

Virtual trade show checklist

1. Look Into Platforms

When you host a virtual event, look into virtual event hosting platforms to find the correct one. Ask the hosting platforms if they offer demos, you may be able to have a run through of the event. Event hosting platforms like Hubilo will take the nerves out of hosting a virtual trade show and will ensure your vendors and guests will have a great time! 

2. Pre-Event Communication

When the lines of communication are kept open, there should be no confusion. Event organizers will be the main source of communication, for the vendors and the guests. Communication can be done through email or the event app. However, being clear when communicating and clearly explaining all of the expectations will leave no room for error. 

3. Scheduling Appointments With Vendors

If your virtual trade show is on the smaller side, you may require your guests to schedule appointments with the vendors of their choice. Within the app, your guests can see which vendors will be attending and they can set up an appointment in a specific time slot. Your vendors are able to allot a certain amount of time for each guest and the time slots can be made available to every guest to see which time slot is available. 

4. Plan A Networking Event

Virtual networking has become popular over the past few years, and hosting one will allow your guests to connect with one another on a more personal level. Having a spot within the event app to show guests information and share guest information with one another is so easy and convenient. Giving your guests a set time for them to gather and network will help generate leads and help to make genuine connections. 

5. Follow Up Surveys And Feedback

The best way to determine if your event was a success is by sending out surveys to both your guests and vendors. Having a space in the app for vendors and guests to leave comments and feedback will allow event organizers to see what worked and what didn’t work. Using this feedback will help you to plan any future events! 

6. Understanding Your Security Needs

When any type of event becomes virtual, the threat of a security breach is something that needs to be on the forefront of everyone’s minds. However, ensuring that your vendors and customers are legitimate is the best way to have a strong security system. Moderators for the event should be on the lookout for any type of suspicious activity, and if they notice anything suspicious, address it immediately and try to combat the situation. 

7. Prepare Quality Content For Your Attendees

When guests attend your events, they want to see quality content that they will remember after the event is over! Before the virtual trade show begins, send out a pre-event survey to your guests to gain a better understanding of what they wish to see at your event! By doing this, you can tailor your virtual trade show to the likes of your guests! 

8. Monitor The Event With Data Analytics

Data analytics help event organizers determine if the event was a success! You can measure ROI with these analytics, and even compare event registrants against event check ins! By doing this, you can determine who registered for your event, but did not attend. Using these data analytics can help you plan for next year’s event, and make it even better than the last!

How To Choose The Best Virtual Trade Show Platform

Choosing the correct platform to host your virtual trade show on can make all the difference when it comes to actually hosting your event. Doing your research for different platforms will help event organizers find the perfect platform, one that works directly with your plans and goals. Determining the theme, audience and vendors for your virtual trade show will help you find the best platform to use. Having a trial run will show you how every aspect of the event will run when the event comes! 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

1. How Does A Virtual Trade Show Work?

Your virtual trade show can be done in a variety of ways. Vendors can have booths in which guests can attend to see what each vendor is selling. The use of booths allows for many vendors to display their goods as well as connect with guests! 

2. Are Virtual Trade Shows Worth It?

Yes, they are totally worth it! Virtual trade shows allow guests and vendors from all over the world to attend. Vendors of all types can display their goods and services to guests and generate revenue! 

3. What Do You Do In A Virtual Booth?

A virtual booth is where a vendor displays their products and services. Each vendor has a small area reserved just for them, and they are able to brand their booth with their company name and logo. Each booth can be customized to each vendor, that way guests can see on the floor plan map where each vendor is! 

4. How Much Does A Virtual Trade Show Cost?

Depending on the size of your event, your virtual trade show can be priced differently. Doing your research and having your demographics in place when researching potential platforms will help you receive an accurate quote! 


Virtual trade shows are becoming more popular within the corporate world. Having guests and vendors gather together from all over the world will broaden the horizons of both parties! Vendors are able to showcase and sell their goods and services, and vendors can generate revenue. The use of an app can help guests find the vendors they’re looking for, and even help connect guests with one another through networking. The use of feedback and post-event surveys can help event organizers plan future events to the likes and dislikes of their guests!

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