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How to Continue Building Relationships with Virtual Trade Shows


One of the sole reasons why face-to-face marketing, trade show exhibiting, networking, cross country meetings, etc. are still predominant in such a digitally focused time, is because of the value of relationships.

When the ‘face-to-face’ portion of trade shows was stripped away due to COVID-19, we were left to begin navigating virtual trade shows as our only option for the time being. This left many of us thinking, “Maybe we can still continue sharing good information, increasing sales, and growing brand awareness with virtual trade shows, but how do we continue building strong relationships through a screen?”

Virtual trade shows are great for gaining new leads and reaching prospects that may not have the availability to attend your in-person shows, but they aren’t the greatest at cultivating relationships. While it’s not impossible to continue building relationships through virtual trade shows, it’s definitely not as easy as it is to engage with a person one-on-one at an event.

Here are a few differences between these two marketing tactics.

Benefits of building relationships at in-person trade shows

Human Connection = Relationship = Likeability = SaleTrade shows offer attendees more than just a free branded water bottle, a look at a new product, or insight on new trends. They offer a sense of human connection, one that buyers are able to build with the people who are a part of the brands they want to invest in.

Having the opportunity to speak to someone, build common ground, and create trust allows for personal relationships to grow very quickly. Strong relationships lead to greater ‘likeability’ and familiarity, and hey, we usually side with the people and brands that we like, right?

When it comes to persuasive methods of communication, face-to-face takes the cake. This is especially true when a prospect is engaging with a brand for the first time. Having the ability to start your relationship strong will set you off on the right foot.

No Face-To-Face Interaction = Slower Relationship BuildingLet’s compare friendship to a business relationship. If you come across a person’s profile online and they seem very interesting, friendly, and maybe someone you would enjoy being around, you might look a little deeper to see if your first impression is correct. You can do as much reading, scrolling, and clicking as you want, but without interacting with that person face-to-face, it’s going to be more difficult to connect on a personal or relationship level.

Similar to this idea, a prospect can get a good gauge of your brand by researching and clicking through your website and social media pages. However, if you aren’t able to speak to someone who is interested in your business face-to-face, it takes more effort to build a relationship. And while it’s possible to build trust virtually, it will take much more time and persistence than if you were to speak in person.

An in-person trade show lets your trade show staff take the reins of the conversation, build an organic connection with interested prospects, and help them understand why your business is their best solution. Building strong relationships like this will set you up for success now and in the future. Those who form a genuine connection with your business at a trade show may be sold right off the bat, leading to the sales you’re aiming for. And even if there are prospects who are not yet ready to make any decisions, you’ll still have that personal connection under your belt when it does come time for them to make a decision.

Benefits of building relationships at virtual trade showsSince taking a break from exhibiting altogether would put us behind the curve of our fellow industry members, virtual trade shows have become our next best option.

While it’s hard to replicate an in-person interaction, an alternative for building relationships online is through video chats. Opening up this option within your virtual event could be a game-changer for starting a dialogue with interested prospects!

As mentioned earlier, a first-time interaction that is in-person rather than virtual can put your brand miles ahead of others that have not had that same human interaction. However, if a relationship has already been established from past trade shows with some of your prospects, then a virtual trade show is a great way to continue building on that relationship and keeping it from falling stagnant.

Another benefit of offering a video chat option during your virtual event is that there are many people who feel more comfortable behind a screen than chatting in person. This means that your virtual trade show could allow you to engage with people who otherwise may not want to spend time talking at an in-person event.

Don’t be too quick to assume that all hope for creating relationships through virtual trade shows is thrown out the window – a warm smile and a friendly tone can still be felt on a video chat. Face-to-face connections are irreplaceable, but don’t give up hope on your potential for keeping your client and prospect relationships going during this time!

So yes, virtual trade shows are a great alternative for the time being. However, the power of human connection is important in business, and it’s truly irreplaceable, which is why Skyline Exhibits can’t wait for trade shows to be back in full swing!


Tips for Successful Virtual Events & Video Conferencing Book

In this book, Skyline has compiled 18 blog posts originally published in Skyline E-TIPS. The posts combine valuable tips and trends about virtual trade shows, video conferencing, promotions and giveaways, engagement, lead management and much more.

Request your free digital copy today!

About the Author

In her experience at Skyline's corporate office in St. Paul, Minnesota, Briquelle Neyens immersed herself in trade show research and the ins and outs of exhibit sales firsthand. She also engaged with Skyline's wide-array of products and services from an insider's perspective. Her blogs portray her expertise on what it takes to be a successful trade show marketer. She enjoys generating information that will help all trade show marketers in their decisions to become successful on the trade show floor.

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