The Virtual Trade Show Experience

The Virtual Trade Show Experience

Welcome to the new normal for trade shows! Have you attended a virtual event yet? Cultivate’20 Virtual was our first foray into this digital expo floor experience. This horticulture networking and education trade show is produced by AmericanHort. Companies serving every aspect of the horticulture industry, from breeding to growing, marketing to selling, display what’s new for the following retail season and beyond.  It’s an event that we attend every year, but this year it was so very different. Here are a few things we learned, loved and missed.

Trade Show Booths

With just a few booth templates to choose from, it was tough for companies to really make their booth stand out. Those that did used available signage space for eye catching-images and solutions-based headlines that drew you in.


From highly produced welcome videos to real time capturing of what is happening onsite in nurseries and greenhouses, video was the storytelling king. Video truly makes products come to life and when you’re talking about plants, it is essential to see color and form. Even movement of the plants can be captivating. For one of our clients, a new factor immerged – scale. Real, out-in-the-nursery video allowed him to show scale, not only of the habit of the plant, but of how many of the new varieties they have ready to bring to market.

“Green” Briefcases

The Green industry showed off its green-ability at this year’s event with digital briefcases for catalogs, sell sheets and other paper materials that were readily available for download. Less printing, less paper, less hauling materials back home. Of course, the digital event really didn’t present us with a choice of paper or digital, but this is a trend I’m sure we all hope continues!

Introverts Paradise

My introverted friends are singing the praises of virtual trade shows. The ability to spend as much time as you like in a booth (sometimes after hours), reviewing all the materials available and lingering over every new product or plant WITHOUT ANYONE STARING or initiating a conversation is an introverts dream. It also made it easy to check out the competition. Even if you’re an extravert, the extra time and the ability overstay your welcome was considered a perk for the virtual event.

Chats and Virtual Visits

Some of the booths I “entered” had people on hand to send me a welcome to the booth chat. This gave a great sense of their company’s customer service. However, most booths I visited did not have anyone reaching out.

It was easy to see who was “in” the booth and accessible to chat. But job titles were missing from the lists of employees, so if you were looking for someone specific, you still had to ask.  The chat function was easy to use, and I’d expect, convenient for exhibitors who could continue their workday and answer questions as they came in. I know I was able to do more work while still “attending” the show this year.

Very few booths had a video chat function. This was a bit surprising, as we’re seeing this as a trend at other shows.

We heard great things about the after-hours social networking events and the education sessions. Having those sessions accessible even after the show is over will be a great way to extend the event’s reach. It will be interesting to see how companies perceive this value. Did the virtual show present the same sales opportunities? Were new connections made?

For me, the biggest downside about the virtual event was not being able to see people in person. This industry is full of smart, dedicated people who love to play in the dirt. It’s a group of people who are all connected because of what they do – helping people around the globe create beautiful outdoor spaces. It’s a group that is connected in more ways than most industries. There are quite a few characters too. We missed you all!

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