The Center for Global Business (CGB) presented the sixth installment in an ongoing series of webinars by the MAPIT Alliance, “Don’t Be a No-Show: Making the Most of Virtual Trade Shows.” In light of current limitations on travel, this edition provided insights and best practices on how to navigate virtual trade shows and maximize the virtual experience as both an event sponsor and organizer. It also presented resources available from the MAPIT Alliance partners to support companies’ export initiatives.
The webinar featured insights and best practices from David Tohn, executive chairman of BoD and STEER Tech, and Brad L. Stewart of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation. Rebecca Bellinger, executive director of the CGB at Maryland Smith, moderated the conversation, and in collaboration with other MAPIT Alliance partners, concluded the webinar by sharing information around existing resources and programs for Maryland companies to utilize.
Tohn shared four key insights critical to the success of conference exhibitors.
Insight #1: Gaining the attention of attendees can be difficult when they are staring at their computer screens. To combat this, include your company’s value proposition with your logo to entice attendees to join your virtual booth. Additionally, display dynamic content within your virtual booth setting – a mix of videos, images and downloadable PDFs – to engage attendees.
Insight #2: Always have your virtual booth staffed during live-booth hours and if live-booth hours are not available, consider creating a live Zoom link where attendees can click to talk to a company representative.
Insight #3: Get on a panel! Having panel presence is critical to guide the conversation, facilitate a thoughtful discussion, and ultimately drive company awareness.
Insight #4: Stay engaged in the master chat window to encourage attendees to learn about a relevant topic or offer solutions to a problem.
Stewart presented how a virtual conference environment can be beneficial and what virtual trade show organizers can do to provide more value for conference participants. For example, as chair of the Bio Innovation Conference, Stewart explained that making the event virtual “created a global opportunity for us. So even though our conference is physically based in Maryland…we have attendees coming literally from around the globe to attend”. He also mentioned that the virtual environment allowed them to “diversify the cross-section of speakers and moderators and panelists we had available.” Other recommendations provided by Stewart were to allow at least 10 to 12 weeks to plan a virtual event, rethink how the day-of events are structured to avoid Zoom fatigue, provide ample networking opportunities, and manage attendee expectations by communicating about how to best navigate the virtual conference among others.
Andrew Glass, commercial officer of the Baltimore Export Assistance Center at the U.S. Department of Commerce, Jessica Reynolds, senior director at the Maryland Department of Commerce, Phil Grove, chair of the Maryland-D.C. District Export Council and Maryland Smith alumnus, and Bellinger concluded the webinar by discussing several resources available by each of the partners of the MAPIT Alliance including the Trade.gov, ExportMD Grant Program, ExporTech, the Maryland Global Export Consulting Program, which provides companies with access to talented undergraduate or graduate Maryland Smith students to deliver solutions to their international business challenges, and the Maryland Business: Rebooted free webinar series.
The MAPIT Alliance is a partnership of Maryland Smith’s Center for Global Business, Maryland-D.C. District Export Council, the Maryland Department of Commerce, Office of International Investment and Trade, and the U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) in Baltimore.
Watch the recording of the webinar. Learn more about the MAPIT Alliance and the Center for Global Business. If interested in applying to the Maryland Global Export Consulting Program for the spring, contact the center via email at email@example.com by December 1.
This event was sponsored in part by CIBE, a Title VI grant provided by the U.S. Department of Education.
— By Jordan Heitzner, graduate assistant, Center for Global Business