As a brand marketing event manager, you’ve most likely been bombarded with virtual this and virtual that this year. It’s overwhelming when there are so many options for hosting or participating in a virtual experience.

That’s why we’re taking a deeper dive into understanding the difference between three popular virtual marketing experiences: trade shows, experiences, and events.

Connecting with customers is always top priority in any marketing engagement. Only now, the method is different and we have more options. Moving your marketing events into an online platform has proven to have some incredible benefits for both your brand and your customers and prospects. 

So, let’s take a look at the top three methods of virtual marketing engagement.

1. Virtual Trade Shows

Virtual Trade Show - example

Virtual trade shows surged this year due to the global pandemic. This was a massive undertaking by show organizers who had to figure out a way to provide exhibitors with a templated online environment. Granted, it’s not perfect and there are still a lot of kinks to work out, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction — and a welcome addition for trade show marketing events in the future.

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The experience of exhibiting at a digital trade show varies tremendously depending on the show organizer’s platform. Some are not focused on the trade show component at all. Rather, they are focused on conference content. 

Yesenia Hasakian, Brand Manager at Steelhead Productions and residential digital guru, suggests:

“At this level, exhibitors could sponsor sessions. One example of a virtual trade show offering at the basic level is a virtual exhibitor listing (not to be confused with a virtual booth). This listing is similar to what you would see in an event mobile app or event website. Assets may include a company logo, description, contact info, PDF, and video uploads, and if you’re lucky — a means to schedule appointments.” 

On the other hand, there are a few robust platforms that mimic a trade show environment, virtually. In these experiences, you will find a virtual expo hall, and typically these platforms will provide a few exhibit designs to choose from then allow the exhibitor to customize the virtual booth branding. Additional features may include video and resource upload, live text chat and/or video chat, appointment setting, and matchmaking. 

So, what’s one way for exhibitors to get the most bang for their buck? 

“This is tricky because not all virtual trade shows are created equal,” says Yesenia.

“If I had to choose, I would say the most valuable function would be the matchmaking, if it is being offered, because it allows both the attendee and exhibitor to receive personalized suggestions according to their interests. This is a great way for the exhibitor to schedule appointments with their ideal buyer.”

Like we mentioned before, the virtual trade shows we’ve seen this year aren’t quite perfect. The biggest complaint across the board has been low engagement from attendees. 

Organizers have not found ways to entice people to visit the virtual booths, or there’s low promotion overall for the exhibit hall. Exhibitors spend hours manning their virtual booth, with zero insight on who is “walking by.” Sadly, the trade show booths offered by organizers are cookie-cutter experiences that make it impossible to stand out like they typically would at a live event. 

Yet, it’s critical to exhibit in the virtual space for several reasons. Most importantly, for supporting the organization, brand awareness, and securing preferences for selections for the following year. 

However, this is an opportunity for brands to get a little more creative and personalized with their virtual marketing engagement, starting with …

2. Virtual Experiences

Virtual Experience


In this blog post, we talked about all of the cool brand experiences you can create in a virtual environment, ranging from product launches, to pop-up shops, to facility tours.

One huge benefit of owning a virtual environment for your brand is that it goes way beyond a 3D experience of a traditional brick and mortar store, event installation, or limited engagement. There’s almost no limit to the type of environment designed in the virtual space. And there are several ways to create effective marketing campaigns and customer engagement within a virtual environment. 

A virtual experience is a way for your brand to get really creative and specific with marketing engagement. For example, say you’re signed up to virtually exhibit at XYZ Trade Show, and we know from what we learned above that the virtual trade show experience may not yield the best results. 

But what if you create some pre-show engagement with an experience in your virtual environment, and perhaps host a VIP customer and prospect happy hour on one of the event days? Follow that up with a recap experience as a post-show follow-up with your audience and boom! There’s an elevated and unique brand experience for your audience. 

Also, be sure to check with show organizers to see if you’re allowed to place the URL for your virtual environment in your virtual booth. That way, if you’re feeling stuck with an underwhelming virtual booth, you can still support the show and guide your audience to a more customized digital experience.

3. Virtual Events

Virtual Event - INBOUND

While virtual experiences are more suitable for smaller audiences, digital events have been tremendously successful with larger audiences. They host live audiences for engagements such as presentations, webinars, and live audience interaction with breakout rooms or Q&A sessions. 

These marketing events are beneficial for brands because you can easily expand your engagement by increasing the flexibility in the execution of your engagements, reaching a much broader audience — all while capturing more robust data. 

Salesforce is an excellent example of a company that reaped the benefits of hosting their annual event for the Asian Pacific region virtually. The event was scheduled earlier this year at the onset of COVID-19, in Australia, with 15,000 registered attendees. With only 10 days to make it happen, Salesforce made the pivot to a virtual platform. The result: 80,000 online viewers of the virtual event with 1.2 million video views across social media platforms. Talk about phenomenal ROI! 

Brand marketing events are living in an incredible moment in history right now. Even though the face-to-face marketing opportunities found at live events, experiential events, traditional retail spaces, meetings, conferences, and trade shows will always be the most preferred way to connect with customers and prospects, it’s clear that virtual marketing is having more than a moment. It’s here to stay, even when live events return in full swing.

Could one (or all) of these three virtual marketing engagements elevate your brand in the digital space? Scheduling a brief discovery call with our team can help you determine which method of virtual engagement can work for your brand.

Or, schedule a FREE virtual environment demo with our team to learn how to create a clever, interactive virtual experience for your audience.

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Virtual Experience take-me-away-escapism-vr-virtual-reality-burst-light Virtual Trade Show - example

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