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virtual trade show

16 KPIs To Measure Your Online Trade Show or Association Conference Success

As industry membership associations and trade show organizers find ways to address lost revenues from the postponement of in-person events, many are turning to virtual experiences. Some are doing so with success, but others aren’t quite sure of their results.

87% of industry trade organizations that have hosted virtual events said they were successful. However, the definition of success is unclear, as 39% did not set an official goal. Without setting clear goals for virtual or hybrid conferences and gatherings, associations cannot understand whether their approach is providing value for their members and partners. 

To help understand whether your next virtual conference is a success, let’s review the top key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure the attendee and exhibitor experience during an industry trade show or membership association conference.

Example Goals for An Industry Association Online Trade Show

An industry association trade show involves two very unique audiences, each with different goals: your attendees and your exhibitors. Here are suggested KPIs for each audience, plus a few general event KPIs that can measure your event’s overall impact.

Attendee Satisfaction Goals for Trade Shows

Your association members or trade show attendees should be the primary focus of your event experience. How can you provide value to your attendees, connect them with the best resources to help them succeed, and foster long-term growth for them within your community?

Naturally, your team should focus on building an exceptional event agenda that directly addresses the needs of your membership. But to measure if your event was a success, we recommend focusing on these markers of the attendee experience:

  • Attendee satisfaction. Conduct a post-event survey to understand your attendee satisfaction and, most importantly, whether they feel the event met their needs as an association member. Use these survey findings to develop an engagement plan to delight your association members after your event is over.
  • Connections made. If your virtual event platform allows it, assess how many messages attendees exchanged with each other during the event.
  • Conference material downloads. How many attendees downloaded assets from your conference platform? Examine download data before, during, and after your event to understand how long attendees engage with the event content. 
  • Educational credits awarded. Assess the success of your event training and certification programs by measuring the total number of educational credits awarded. You can further explore this metric by reviewing the number of attendees who received educational credits and the average educational credits awarded.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS). How many attendees would recommend the event to a colleague? Add a question to your post-event attendee survey to understand your event NPS. 
  • Next-year registrants. Host a flash sale for next year’s event tickets at this year’s price during your event. Monitor how successful this sale is to gauge whether your event experience generates immediate excitement for next year.  
  • Total attendees. How many people attended your event, in-person and online, and how does this compare to your year-over-year figures?

Exhibitor Satisfaction KPIs for Industry Events

Event exhibitors and sponsors are a vital part of industry trade show experiences. If you fail to meet their needs, they may quit supporting your event—which could be a major miss for your attendees.

Stay ahead of any potential exhibitor or sponsor dissatisfaction by tracking these KPIs:

  • Number of sponsors/exhibitors. Is your team growing its network of exhibitors and sponsors? Or has this number declined year-over-year?
  • Number of visitors to each booth. Regardless of whether the number of event sponsors grows, you need to ensure your attendees engage with these sponsors and exhibitors. What is the average number of booth visits? What does this data show about the type of exhibitors you should approach for your next event? 
  • Number of downloads of vendor collateral. Exhibitors and sponsors need to understand the quality of interactions they had with visitors. So check how many times attendees downloaded collateral from vendors, such as information sheets, product guides, or ebooks. 
  • Number of attendee meetings scheduled. How many attendees scheduled meetings with exhibitors?
  • Number of qualified leads. What is the average number of qualified leads that your vendors gained by attending your event? 

General KPIs To Determine Virtual Event Success

Beyond your attendees and exhibitors, your team should measure additional KPIs that showcase your more significant event impact. For example, was the event well-received by the media? Did you spark conversations on social media? Are you continuing to find new, diverse speakers?

At a minimum, we recommend tracking these trade show KPIs to assess your event success:

  • Diversity of speakers or exhibitors. Ideally, your industry trade show community should reach new people and companies each year. As you build your event schedule and series of activities for your conference, assess how many speaker or exhibitor submissions you receive from individuals or companies that have previously expressed an interest in partnering with you on your event.
  • Social shares/chatter. Monitor social media for posts about your event, and track the number of times that attendees used your event hashtag on social media. Ensure you have team members ready to support your event on social media, including answering attendee questions, encouraging user-generated content, and engaging with attendees.
  • Press attendees. Did any members of the media attend your event?
  • Post-event blog posts and press coverage. What content did people create about your event? 

Choose a Virtual Event Platform with Built-In Reporting Capabilities

Each of the above sets of KPIs is simply a starting point to help your team refine its virtual or hybrid event strategy. We recommend you connect with individual event attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors to discuss their feelings about your event and ways to improve their next experience. 

In addition to these one-on-one conversations, you will find that your event platform will either greatly help—or significantly hinder—your ability to uncover the KPIs you need.

We built Social hour to make it easier to track event metrics like total attendees, maximum concurrent attendees per session, how many attendees interacted with each other, and more. Learn why our customers say we’re an ideal platform for virtual industry membership association or trade show events.

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virtual trade show

3 Tips For Hosting a Successful Industry Trade Association Virtual Event

Since the onset of COVID-19, the cancellation of many longstanding trade shows and industry events like Mobile World Congress, E3, and SXSW have dominated headlines—leaving many to question what the future of these traditionally in-person events will look like.

Industry trade associations, in particular, have faced unique financial pressure when adapting their events strategy, given that 27% of these organizations’ revenues come from meetings/trade shows, surpassed only by membership dues at 45%. 

To help trade associations and similar event organizers adapt their events strategy, let’s explore the latest data on how trade association members feel about attending in-person events. We’ll also discuss three common challenges that industry organizations face when creating new virtual or hybrid event experiences. 

How Trade Associations Have Adapted Their Event Strategies

Although it’s uncertain when in-person events will regain their momentum, 70% of respondents in a study from Innovatis Group, a leading association management, and engagement company, listed two top factors for when they will be comfortable with in-person events:

  1. A significant drop in COVID cases 
  2. Widespread vaccinations 

Restrictions like social distancing and smaller group sizes will play a smaller role, according to that survey.

Understandably, in light of these sentiments, the same report found 85% of organizations will increase their investment in virtual events over the next year to address the hesitation to join in-person events. Additionally, 72% of associations plan to create new forms of non-dues revenue, including educational opportunities available in a virtual or hybrid setting. 

Three Hybrid or Online Industry Event Challenges and How to Address Them

As more industry trade organizations explore virtual event opportunities to regain lost revenues from their canceled or delayed in-person events—and provide new value for their members—many teams will face a common set of initial planning hurdles.

When planning your next virtual or hybrid industry event, ensure your team fully explores these areas:

Challenge 1: Creating value for members in a virtual setting

First and foremost, your team needs to understand how it will create value for your event attendees. What do they hope to gain from the experience, and how can you deliver sessions, content, and networking opportunities to meet these needs? 

We recommend you survey your members ahead of your virtual or hybrid event to learn what they hope to gain from the experience. Seek to understand how comfortable your members are at the prospect of in-person gatherings, what challenges they face, and what resources they need to succeed. 

As you learn what your attendees expect from your event, your team can better tailor its goals to assess whether your event was successful.

Challenge 2: Transitioning an in-person event to a virtual event

Even if you have a clear understanding of what your association members hope to gain from your event, all teams are challenged with transitioning an in-person event to a virtual setting. 

Overcome this hurdle by designing your event to be entirely virtual, and then add a complementary in-person experience (if your pre-event survey suggests your community would like an in-person component) around it. 

Planning online-first will help your team map the various connections (or disconnections) within your event experience. Ensure there is a seamless journey for your attendees, from when they first hear about your event, register, join your event, and later access its replays—all while keeping networking and cross-platform engagement opportunities front and center for everyone. 

Challenge 3: Creating value for event exhibitors and sponsors in a virtual or hybrid setting

Keeping your event exhibitors and sponsors happy is vital to ensure long-term event success. If exhibitors or sponsors fail to see the value in partnering for your event, they will likely stop supporting your activities, limiting the potential value for your attendees. 

Spotlight your exhibitors and sponsors throughout your event experience to maximize their ability to engage with your attendees. Use social media to highlight sponsored sessions, coordinate raffles and giveaways to generate excitement, and incentivize your attendees to visit the virtual exhibition hall or exhibitor showcase during your event.

As with your attendees, it’s critical to survey your event sponsors and exhibitors to understand what they hope to gain from the experience and ways you can best partner with them for the event. 

Why Your Virtual Event Platform Matters

By addressing each of those three common challenges, your team can more effectively design an event that can replicate the value of your in-person experiences—potentially surpassing your pre-pandemic success.

But there is one final challenge that can make or break your virtual industry trade show experience: poorly designed event technology.

Many event platforms were built immediately following the pandemic, attempting to cash in on the rush to virtual platforms. Or, they are legacy tools designed purely for conference calls that event planners hastily adapted for large-scale events. The result? Overpriced tools that fail to meet your attendee needs—confusing user interfaces, garbled audio, and an inability for people to actually engage. 

We’ve built Social hour with the features that your event attendees need, all in an incredibly easy-to-customize interface. Learn more about why Social hour is the ideal platform for hybrid or virtual industry trade association events

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virtual trade show

Online Virtual Trade Shows: A New Way to Network

When it comes to networking, we’re all faced with the same fundamental question: how do we best reach and connect with new people? There’s nothing wrong with getting out and meeting people in person, but what about those who don’t have the time or budget for flying across the country or trekking locally? Virtual trade shows are a cost-effective and time-efficient way to network with other business professionals.

Over the past few years, virtual trade shows have emerged as a way for businesses to reach out to new audiences without committing to expensive in-person attendance. On top of this, virtual trade shows allow you to promote your business and product without the need for physical space and supplies.

What Is An Online Virtual Trade Show?

An online trade show is a way to reach a larger market by using the internet to broadcast the event. The trade show can be in many different formats, but it’s generally a video broadcast of a show floor with an announcer describing the booths and products available. Today, there are many platforms for these shows. Platforms range from low tech options like YouTube to Facebook Live. These are inexpensive but offer very few features. To high tech options lie Social Hour which has become one of the more popular choices. Social Hour offers a wide range of features which help a trade show be successful.

Learn more about Social Hour trade show features.

Virtual trade shows are a new way to show off products and services to potential clients. In a virtual trade show, the attendees are not physically present but view the presentations from their computers. As a result, they can browse from anywhere without having to be at a specific location. These trade shows are also more cost-effective than traditional ones because the only cost is for hosting fees which can be less than $1,000.

Benefits Of Online Virtual Trade Shows

It is common to have a stand-alone booth for a company at a trade show to promote its product or service in many industries. However, this is not always the best idea. Many trade shows have been replaced with virtual shows, where you can display products, and staff from different companies can view each other. According to a study by AT Kearney, “Exhibitors who participate in an event’s virtual component rather than a physical one report higher levels of sales leads.

Getting the word out about your business has never been easier or more accessible to so many people than it is today. With all of the advancements in technology and the advent of the internet, companies can reach a global audience that was virtually impossible in decades past. The traditional trade show model has been an industry standard for years, but there is a new option: the online virtual trade show with technological advances.

How To Choose An Online Virtual Trade Show Platform

Many emerging companies are using virtual trade shows as a method of generating leads and increasing sales. Virtual trade show platforms such as VTS, Digital Muster, and Social Hour allow customizable options to best suit your business needs. The event’s details, such as the times and locations, can be set up in advance on these platforms.

Considerations In Choosing An Online Virtual Trade Show Platform

A virtual trade show is a live-streamed event that is hosted online. It’s a great way to showcase event services and products to an international audience. However, with so many different platforms out there, it can be challenging to find the right one for your company. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to find the perfect platform for your needs:

  • Do you need audio and video streaming capabilities?
  • Do you need onsite chat moderation?

International trade shows can be expensive and time-consuming. To make the process less daunting, consider the following considerations in choosing an online virtual trade show platform:

  • Security features
  • Reliability
  • Analytics
  • Scheduling ability
  • Content management
  • Social media integration

What are the costs of hosting an online virtual trade show?

The costs of hosting an online virtual trade show can vary significantly depending on the size and complexity of the event. It’s important to consider the cost of these services, and how you can save money on hosting an event by using available tools.

The internet is a great way to find new customers and boost your company’s business. However, it can also be expensive if not done correctly. Hosting an online virtual trade show might seem like the perfect solution because there are no travel costs or convention center rental fees, but expenses can still add up.

Which type of trade show do you want to organize?

If you’re looking to organize a trade show, you need to figure out the type of event you want. There are three different types: regional, national and international. Regional events are typically for businesses in the same region and provide them with the opportunity to network and collaborate with other local businesses. National events span across a greater geographical area, making it easier for potential customers to attend.

Other considerations in choosing an online trade show platform

With the emergence of online trade shows, choosing the right platform can be a daunting task. With so many options available, it is crucial to consider your current needs and your anticipated future needs when choosing which platform best fits your business. When considering current needs, you should consider how much content you need to share, whether or not you will be bringing exhibitors on to interact with attendees, and what size you would like the final presentation to be.

In addition to the three primary considerations when choosing an online trade show platform, several other factors may need to be considered. For instance, if one is looking for a solution to help boost their company’s search engine optimization, it’s essential to know whether or not the site will include a features for SEO. It might also be pertinent to consider the amount of automation desired.

Social Hour provides a fantastic suite of tools for anyone looking to host a virtual trade show. Book a demo today to get started.