The Benefits & Drawbacks of Virtual

As long as I have been in the meeting business, virtual trade shows have been talked about as something that is just around the corner. Think about it: The ability to reach thousands of attendees from the comfort of their home or office computer, with minimal expense to the exhibitor. What a fantastic concept!

Yet for all its talk and bluster, virtual trade shows have not taken off. Here are the primary benefits and drawbacks of virtual trade shows that will help you formulate your own conclusion why live trade shows are still very relevant.


Virtual Trade Show Benefits


No Travel Required

The ability to participate in a show from your office or home has a lot of appeal to the person that is very busy or has a restricted travel budget.

Participants Are Active

According to a survey by Marketing Profs and ON24, 77% of virtual trade show attendees download exhibitor information.


Low Cost Per Lead

Exhibitor Magazine found in their virtual event survey, that the cost per lead was lower than an in-person trade show because exhibitors received a high quantity of leads at an overall lower cost to participate in the show.


Virtual Trade Show Drawbacks


No Standards

Unlike a live show with specific sizes and rules to follow, virtual trade shows are like the wild, wild west. They can be anything from a static site with exhibitor logos, links and PDFs to a video site with scheduled appointments with exhibitors and anything in-between.

Lower Quality of Leads

While Exhibitor Magazine found the quantity of leads to be high in a virtual show, they also found the quality of those leads to be lower than live shows. This makes sense because at a trade show there is an opportunity for exhibitors to see attendees several times – whether it is at receptions, educational events or just impromptu networking. Qualitative questions can be asked over time, versus a 5-minute appointment virtually.

No multi-sensory experience

You can engage an attendee with sight and sound virtually but there is no way to use touch, smell or taste with this format. And forget engaging attendees in a multi-sensory experience.

The Press Has No Interest

It is easy to pitch your trade show when you can paint the picture for the media about the number of attendees and exhibitors that will be there, product announcements that will happen and VIP access they will have. This cannot happen in a virtual environment – no one is interested in this platform.

It May Be More Expensive Than You Think

When you think about having a fast, highly reliable and secure platform to access the virtual show, you will need to put more burden on your own IT team or outsource the job to a service provider. Either way, you need the integrated technology for audio and streaming video.

And because there are no standards, the budget dollars will depend on your audience size and level of sophistication they desire. For example, if you have 2,000 people signed onto the site at the same time viewing live video from the trade show floor, the last thing you want is constant buffering to keep up with demand.

SmartSource Rentals is Your Trade Show Partner


SmartSource Rentals is regarded as the trusted experts in technology solutions for businesses and events and maintains the largest national footprint in the computer and audio visual rental space.  SmartSource is widely recognized for its breadth and depth of offerings and seamless systems integration for even the most complex temporary installations.

By leveraging high performance IT, AV, and the latest interactive technologies, SmartSource helps marketers effectively convey and distill their brand messages with optimal impressions. SmartSource Rentals has fully-staffed and equipped branch offices in 22 major metropolitan markets. With a multi-million dollar inventory and a team of professionals who deliver excellence every time, we also serve as the official technology vendor in 375+ trade shows every year. For more information, visit: or call: 800-888-8686.