Forbes Coaches Council

Three Ways To Take Advantage Of A Virtual Expo

If you’ve ever been to a trade show or industry conference, you may have walked away thinking that it was a decent experience. It had exactly the type of information you needed. But at the same time, it would be nice if you could accomplish the same thing without spending a fortune and having to travel to the event, and then walking the floor for hours, wondering where and how to get started.

This is where the value of a virtual expo comes in. It’s exactly what a conventional expo or industry conference is, except you visit it from the convenience of your computer, laptop, phone or tablet.

It’s a trend that has been growing over the years. Numerous organizations and associations have virtual expos. My company has been running one multiple times a year since 2013. Earlier this year, our largest to date featured nearly 200 national franchise exhibitors who showcased their opportunities to thousands of people interested in investing in franchises.

But even while attending a virtual expo, it’s important to make sure you’re fully present in the conference while balancing work and life. Here are three ways to do so.

• Don’t let it pull you away from your day to day. The value of virtual expos isn’t just the information that you collect (though that’s important). It’s that you can get the same thing you would at a real-life expo — information and contacts — while making it fit your own schedule.

Take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to spend time and money traveling, buying new clothes, staying in a hotel or boarding your pets. Use that extra time and money to spend on your business, perhaps even implementing what you’ve learned. And if you’re attending a virtual expo on the weekend, don’t let it pull you away from spending time with your spouse and kids.

• Network as efficiently as you can. Virtual worlds really are worlds. Even in a virtual expo, you have the chance to interact with people. Many virtual expos have group text chat rooms you can utilize, where you can network with other professionals simultaneously, as well as video chats where you can have real-time, face-to-face interactions with the people running the booths.

This is invaluable for any business leader. Networking is crucial to growing a business, whether a startup or an established firm. When running our virtual expos, I’ve certainly met many terrific people and future clients who ended up giving me ideas and inspiration.

But if you do too much networking, that can often lead to not working. Make sure you’re networking efficiently.

• Use them to get your feet wet. If you’re just getting experience in an industry, rather than spending hundreds or thousands of dollars and then realizing that it isn’t an area of business that you want to explore, you can attend a virtual expo and have nothing to lose. You can also use it as an extension of the online research you’re probably already doing. The companies and organizations that have set up these virtual expos have spent a considerable amount of resources making sure that it offers as much as their real-world counterparts.

Really, in the old days, before virtual expos started to become mainstream, you had plenty of viable excuses not to attend a trade show in person. You didn’t want to sit in the middle seat on an airplane. You couldn’t get away for a few days. You couldn’t find a babysitter. That may be the best thing about the rise of virtual expos: There are no good excuses not to attend one. By implementing the tips above, the barriers have been removed, and the virtual doors are always open.