As we continue to ride the virtual wave that began in 2020, virtual trade shows are more popular than ever. Organizations of all sizes are opting for an online (or hybrid) option for their upcoming events.

But how do you host a successful virtual trade show? There are lots of things that event organizers need to consider when dreaming up the perfect event.

In general, trade shows are large functions with huge exhibitor halls, multiple vendors and sponsors each with a booth, and hundreds (often thousands) of attendees. How can all of that squeeze effectively into a virtual environment?

Here, we’ll cover some of the benefits of moving your next trade show online, highlight a few best practices, and discover how you can ensure success for your next virtual exhibition. 

Hint: You need the right virtual event platform with the right tools.

An introduction to virtual trade shows

Blurred abstract image of people walking through halls of trade show

Today, we have access to technology that allows us to shuffle events from traditional, physical formats onto the internet without losing too much of what we’re used to.

In fact, hosting a virtual event comes with a few perks that its physical counterparts cannot offer. Most everything else that one expects to experience at a trade show can be done just as effectively when it’s made virtual.

Of course, to reap the full list of benefits requires the proper tech, a capable virtual trade show platform, careful planning, execution, and maintenance.

The benefits of hosting a virtual trade show

African-American woman sits at desk in front of laptop with many people on the screen while taking notes in a notebook

Like most virtual events, moving your trade show online offers lots of great benefits — some of which will save you money, increase accessibility, and make it easier to collect valuable data. But the list doesn’t end there.

Here are a handful of the perks that your organization, sponsors, exhibitors, and attendees stand to experience when you decide to switch to virtual.

Wider reach

With virtually no bounds imposed by location or someone’s ability to travel, hosting a virtual trade show can widen your reach. You’re only limited by the capability of your chosen virtual event platform. The sky’s the limit.

Better attendance

In a lot of cases, a wider reach means better attendance. Plus, virtual trade shows — and virtual events in general — are not constrained by venue capacity limits. The result is an increase in attendance because you’ve removed all significant and physical barriers.

More accessible

Not everyone can travel or even has the desire to — but they may still wish to attend events. Transforming the physical trade show experience into a comprehensive and engaging online event allows attendees who may have not otherwise shown up the opportunity to participate.


Virtual events are almost always more cost-effective than in-person — especially ones of trade show caliber. By going virtual, you stand to save money on things such as:

  • The venue
  • Catering
  • Travel and transportation
  • Event staff

With a lot of organizations adhering to tight budgets, going virtual is a great option if you’re looking to save some money.


Without all the travel, transportation, and other in-person elements to worry about, virtual trade shows typically generate less waste and costume less energy throughout their duration. This makes them a more eco-friendly option for eco-conscious event planners.

Easier data collection

Perhaps among the most valuable benefits of hosting a virtual trade show or event is the quantity (and quality) of the data.

With the right virtual platform, you’ll have access to actionable, real-time insights from the event that will help you drive continuous improvement and ensure the success of future events.

Virtual trade show best practices

Trade shows can be intimidating all on their own, and introducing a virtual environment — that may be less familiar to a lot of attendees — can make it more so. But there’s no need to worry. There are a set of best practices that can help take the edge off. Follow these, and you’ll provide a top-notch virtual experience for attendees, vendors, exhibitors, and sponsors alike.

Market appropriately

First and foremost, it should be made clear what audience the trade show is intended for.

  • What kind of vendors and exhibitors will be present?
  • Is the show targeted to consumers, people in the industry, or both?

Organizations across lots of different industries host these kinds of events, so the more clearly you can advertise what type of trade show you’re hosting, the better.

Streamline communication and attendee interaction

In a digital space, communication is a huge consideration and can make or break the event experience for everyone involved. Chatting back and forth via video chat and breakout rooms is an important piece of the puzzle during a virtual trade show.

By streamlining communication, you effectively enable and facilitate networking — which can be a little more tricky to do in a virtual environment. But if you can get communication tools and features right, you’ll be well on your way to event success.

Make engagement a priority

Without an engagement strategy or the tools to make it happen, events are often unmemorable. The more you can engage attendees, whether that’s through content strategy, networking, event activities, or gamification, the more memorable it becomes. Engagement creates value for everyone involved.

Have a follow-up plan

When the trade show wraps up, you need a follow-up plan to maximize intended outcomes and goals. For a lot of people, that means sending out post-event notifications or emails, but that usually isn’t enough.

Building and fostering an online community post-event can help keep attendees engaged year-round, generate more leads, and provide a more high-quality and effective networking experience.

How to plan and host a successful virtual trade show

Hosting a successful virtual trade show comes down to choosing a capable platform with a robust selection of tools and careful event planning.

A competent virtual trade show platform should offer everything you need to host a successful event from start to finish.

Useful (and integral) virtual trade show tools

Sponsorship tools:
Sponsors are a crucial part of trade shows and a large source of revenue during the event. For a fruitful sponsor experience, you need a tool that gives your event sponsors top-notch visibility. This can include elements like banner ads, splash screens, custom profiles, push notifications, and more.

Event software:
The right virtual trade show software can connect attendees to engaging content and improves the exhibitor experience. A best-in-class trade show platform should provide tools for getting important information to all attendees, useful features for networking, and even gamification capabilities to drive meaningful engagement.

Registration technology:
Registration is an integral part of the process on your journey to hosting a great trade show. Exhibitors often need to apply and register in advance to secure a booth, so it’s essential to build out branded registration pages that capture the right data.

Accessibility tools:
Removing as many barriers as possible for a potential visitor is crucial. Virtual shows should offer accessibility tools such as closed captions, live translation, and visual adjustments to ensure that everyone can have a great experience.

Reliable WiFi:
A virtual event needs adequate and reliable bandwidth to run smoothly. Having a strong WiFi connection will not only ensure proper functionality, but high internet speeds can improve the entire event experience for virtual attendees altogether.

Trade show software that drives results

Webex Events is an end-to-end event management platform that handles everything from registration to engagement, live streaming, live chat, post-event data gathering, and other essential online trade show components. 

We give virtual trade shows — and exhibitors themselves — a platform to stand on. By supplying robust analytics and detailed metrics on attendee interactions, session views, registration numbers, and more, your event just got better.