9 Tips for Attending Virtual Trade Shows

The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted a lot in 2020, including heavy equipment, construction, and agricultural trade shows and expos. Most events were canceled, rescheduled, or transitioned to a virtual format. As we enter 2021, the slow but steady distribution of a vaccine has given us hope about a return to equipment trade show normalcy. What does that mean for conventions and conferences?

While many trade shows and expos are planning to hold events in-person in 2021, some will remain all-virtual and others will offer remote options. For example, the Commodity Classic, a top agricultural convention, is holding its annual trade show as a totally virtual experience in early March. Similarly, the Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) Summit is being held in late March with both in-person and virtual attendance options.

Plus, the benefits of virtual expos suggest that virtual attendance options might stick around even after the pandemic. With virtual conferences, you can save on travel and hotel expenses, go to events no matter how far away they are (even international), and still learn just as much from live-stream and on-demand seminars and demonstrations that you would have in-person.

All that to say — virtual trade shows are an option that could be here to stay. But what do you need to know about attending a virtual convention? To help you prepare, Equipment Trader has put together 9 tips for attending virtual equipment trade shows and expos: 

1. Add the Event to Your Calendar

You wouldn’t forget to attend an equipment show that requires plane tickets and a hotel stay, but you might forget a virtual event. Get it on your calendar immediately. By blocking off your time, coworkers know that you’re unavailable and you remember not to schedule any other work or appointments at the same time.

2. Build Your Virtual Schedule

Just like an in-person show, you’ll have to pick and prioritize which sessions you’ll attend at a virtual conference. While you’ll need to plan to watch some equipment presentations live, others will be viewable on-demand whenever you’re free. This means that overall, your trade show experience will be more flexible – and maybe more educational – than in-person attendance. 

3. Test Your Equipment

You don’t want to pay for a show and then be unable to connect. Prevent problems by installing updates on your computer and checking that your audio, microphone, and camera all work BEFORE the event starts. Make sure you have a solid Internet connection and a back-up plan in case your connection or device fails.

4. Set Up Your Space

Ensure that you actually have a place where you can watch and participate in the virtual equipment convention, whether it’s reserving a conference room at work or finding a quiet room at home where your family knows to not disturb you.

5. Stay Focused on the Expo

Education and professional development are important to your job. This makes virtual conference attendance a priority. Complete projects ahead of time and don’t try to do other work during the event. Staying focused helps you get the most out of the online conference experience.

6. Eliminate Other Distractions

The day of the show, remind others that the convention is important and you’d prefer not to be disturbed. Try to have everything you might need in the room with you, from your laptop charger to snacks. Close unrelated tabs in your browser, mute Slack or GChat notifications, and turn off your phone’s notifications.

7. Be Proactive and Participate!

Remember: you get what you put into an equipment conference. Here are some our quick tips for proactive participation in a virtual event: 

  • Before the show, review the latest industry news so you can be an informed attendee.
  • Join and actively participate in networking and pre-conference sessions.
  • Print out presentation outlines or slides ahead to time so you can easily follow along.
  • Ask questions during the Q&A time that often follows talks or demonstrations.
  • If you’re interested in an exhibitor, reach out to ask if a rep can meet with you virtually.
  • Connect with other attendees, exhibitors, or speakers on LinkedIn (a personal message with the connection referring to the event is a great conversation starter).
  • Follow the expo host’s social media profiles for real-time updates and highlights.
  • Follow the show’s hashtag on social media, and post your experiences using the hashtag.
  • Ask fellow attendees to meet for a virtual Happy Hour to continue industry conversations.
  • Remain professional in all your encounters and avoid being a “keyboard warrior.” Your conduct will reflect on your business and impact your career, positively or negatively.

8. Take Breaks.

You’ll be very uncomfortable if you sit in one spot all day watching show presentations. Schedule and take breaks throughout the day to stand up, stretch, walk around, grab lunch, hang out with your kids, or whatever else will rejuvenate you to jump back into the rest of the day’s sessions.

9. Make It a Team Experience

A virtual convention is likely relevant to multiple employees. If your business has the budget, get other people registered. Being able to talk about various talks or demonstrations will keep all of you engaged. At minimum, report back to those who couldn’t attend and pass along what you learned.

It’s a brave new world, with equipment trade shows now offering virtual attendance options. We hope these tips help you make the most of your virtual events! And if you’re looking for new equipment, be sure to check out all the for-sale and for-rent equipment available nationwide at EquipmentTrader.com.

About the Author

Ethan Smith is a Content Curator for Trader Interactive, serving the commercial brands Commercial Truck Trader, Commercial Web Services, and Equipment Trader. Ethan believes in using accessible language to elevate conversations about industry topics relevant to commercial dealers and their buyers.

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