How to Use Virtual Reality for Your Next Trade Show

If you’re looking for a way to make your trade show booth more intriguing, you might consider adding a virtual reality feature to your display. Because it has the power to simultaneously educate and entertain, virtual reality is one powerful sales tool, so incorporating it into a trade show environment seems like a no-brainer. But as with all new marketing endeavors, it’s important to establish goals for your VR strategy.

Virtual Reality as the Ultimate Trade Show Edutainment Tool

Virtual reality programs can be developed to help educate and pre-sell prospects to suit a variety of business scenarios. Most often, exhibitors are using VR to:

  • Demonstrate products, their features and uses
  • Provide an interactive walk-through of various service platforms or tier options
  • See how products are manufactured and inform about quality of materials
  • Feature a flyover of the company headquarters and “meet” the sales team

To establish your VR program goals, begin by asking your sales team the following questions:

  • What is it that we would like prospective customers to know about our products or our company that they can’t readily glean from our website?
  • How can we give prospects an up-close, “under the hood” view?
  • What questions could we answer ahead of time to fast-track the process before the sales rep gets involved?
  • What types of tech support and onboarding issues have to be addressed on a regular basis?

VR Environments and Levels of Engagement

In addition to your program goals, the level of engagement that you’re hoping to provide to prospects will dictate which type of VR environment you develop. In a virtual reality world, participants are immersed in the environment at varying levels of complexity and engagement. Before developing your VR application, you’ll have to decide which level would best serve your purposes (and your budget).

On a very basic level, you will need to decide whether to offer trade show participants an immersive or an interactive experience, as follows:

  1. These types of virtual reality simulations are the least interactive and require less sophisticated equipment. An example might be a 360-degree video of your production facility in which users can pan up, down, left and right. Basically, users can look but not touch.
  2. These types of environments react to input provided by the participant. Here again, there are several different levels of engagement, including:
    • Semi-interactive. These VR environments are more interactive by providing users with ways to provide physical input and thus control their experience and results. An example of a semi-immersive VR application would be a flight training simulation for pilots.
    • Fully-interactive. This is the ultimate in user interactivity, where the simulation program will actually react to the user’s physical body and eye movements. This kind of VR environment is often used in high-tech gaming equipment.

As you might expect, the higher the level of interactivity, the more expensive the development costs and the equipment will be. A detailed discussion with your program developer and your sales and marketing team beforehand is crucial to the success of your trade show VR strategy.

Relevance: Is Virtual Reality Right for Your Company?

The best trade show exhibits often boast a “sticky” quality that lures attendees into the booth and urges them to stay a while. Of course, the longer a prospect stays in your booth, the greater their likelihood to make a purchase — which is exactly why gimmicks, contests and giveaways aimed at increasing foot traffic and prospect engagement continue to flourish in the trade show marketing world.

As a gimmick, virtual reality has the ability to skyrocket your sales to the next level … but ONLY if the execution resonates with your prospects. For example, let’s say you have a VR developer who is ready to create an amazing “walk on Mars” VR experience for use in your booth. It sounds incredible, but what does walking on Mars have to do with your brand? Is there any real relevance?

Perhaps your company has a reputation for being a pioneer in the industry, always exploring new frontiers and the like. Or perhaps your existing marketing and advertising features funny little aliens to reinforce the idea that your products are “out of this world.” In either of those cases, a Mars-walk VR experience might make sense because it could be seen as a complement to your company’s existing branding and messaging strategy.

If not, you’ll need to take a step back and spend some time figuring out which type of VR experience — if any — could help you to sell more of your products or services. A flashy, high-tech gadget won’t increase sales if there’s simply no logical connection to your brand.

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