virtual trade show

Coronavirus is having a major effect on the food product development industry, including cancelling major food trade shows like Natural Products Expo West. Many businesses and startups depend on these events to promote their new products. What can be done about this problem, now and in the future? That’s what this week’s HSR Associates blog is all about. We propose changing the trade show model to avoid disruptions from unpredictable situations like pandemics and natural disasters, events that may only become more common as time goes on. Switching to a virtual trade show is a completely viable option that more organizers should consider as the world evolves.

What’s Wrong With a Regular Trade Show?

At a normal trade show, the emphasis is on face-to-face interaction at a large venue. Each vendor displays their products and makes sales and connections in person. This model has a lot of inefficiencies that can be improved upon, including:

  • Poorly organized event space. Lots of time is spent simply trying to physically navigate the venue, which contains hundreds of booths. Maps and guides tend to be confusing or lack details to draw people to your booth. Attendees either come on a mission to visit specific vendors, in which case they miss out on everything else, or they come with the intention to “browse” and miss out on all the booths they didn’t get to see in time.
  • Huge logistical expenses. Planning for a trade show involves building the physical booth, printing materials, paying for travel and related expenses, hiring manpower, and shipping everything to the venue. In short, it’s an expensive hassle for everyone involved. A minimum size 10′ x 10′ booth can cost more than $10,000, considering space rental, graphics, logistics, labor, storage, etc. plus personnel costs for hotel, transportation and meals can add a lot. All the time, effort, and money involved may not pay off in the end if certain attendees – critical leads – never even get to see your booth. A “needle in a haystack” can cost a lot. You might end up paying just for the opportunity to get lost in a sea of other vendors.

What Would a Virtual Trade Show Look Like?

As COVID-19 has shown us, more people are using virtual conferencing technology for a wide variety of applications. Why not for a virtual trade show? Features might include:

  • A virtual “lobby” that makes it easy to search through vendors and see how they are categorized in specific ways. Both the “browsers” and the attendees with a “mission” can make sure they don’t miss an important booth.
  • Instant registration of your contacts and leads with the click of a button
  • High-tech ways to appeal to your audience and show off your brand. A virtual platform makes it easy to use VR and video technology to communicate and bring your product to life.
  • Access for a global audience. Physical trade shows are severely limited based on location. If you’re an American startup with a product that would do great in Japan, a virtual trade show is a great way to reach that audience without having to spend thousands of dollars on travel just for one shot.

Benefits of a Virtual Trade Show

Let’s take a look at all of the other benefits that could come from a virtual trade show.

  • Save money on travel and hotel expenses
  • No need to organize booths, ship, or store materials
  • Instantly collect contact info, as well as more reliable data on attendees with cookies, online data, etc.
  • Benefits attendees who want to see specific venders and” those who want to browse
  • Avoid some of the frustrations of a poorly organized event
  • Potential to use VR technology

Virtual Trade Show: Not Just for Crises

Sure, if a trade show needs to be canceled due to a storm or some other situation, a virtual trade show is one way to defray the day-of costs that companies would have to swallow. But as you can see, the benefits of going virtual don’t just apply when a disaster like COVID-19 hits. A virtual trade show can be used anytime, anywhere. All you need is a computer and the internet.

With so much money freed up, you have more resources to put towards marketing your product and making an exceptional virtual “booth.” The virtual trade show puts you on more even footing with your competitors.

What Do You Think About the Virtual Trade Show?

Virtual trade shows have a lot of benefits, but they also have disadvantages. In our next blog, we’ll talk about some of the downsides, including the fact that it will be harder to give out delicious samples! In the meantime, we want to hear what you think about virtual trade shows. Are they realistic for you?

We would love to receive your comments!

HSR ASSOCIATES specializes in developing new food products and bringing them to market. We provide all the services necessary, from Kitchen To Marketplace. Contact us today at

More great ideas to come from our food product development experts! Stay tuned…………..