Written by: Robert Heiblim, Partner, bluesalve partners, Chairman CTA Small Business Council

Many of us love trade shows and events. Not only do we uncover many business opportunities, we also have the chance to see colleagues and friends, compare notes and generally get updated on our markets and conditions. This year and the pandemic has pretty much ended this to our dismay, and many of us have attended so-called "virtual" shows trying to take their place.

I have done so and have mostly found them to be lacking. Canned presentations can be boring, panels and seminars no matter how topical may not apply to you, or that is simply not what you came for. However, to be kind we need to understand these events as experimental. The producers and exhibitors are still seeking the correct formula for what to do.

Some of these have also been very useful. I note that Sony used live feeds and put on a very informative and compelling presentation at the virtual CEDIA (one of the few things that worked) and I have heard very good feedback from Crestron's virtual event that attendees said was very useful, helpful and informative. It can be done, and the truth is that these events also have some advantages, so we can expect that elements of them will remain in place post pandemic. We should all then learn how to get more value from these events whether we are attending or exhibiting.

Now one of the grandest events, CES will be virtual this year. Again, no one can replace the energy of the crowds, the chance meetings, the in person advantages, but CES2021 also looks to offer some very interesting features that can produce a lot of value if you use them.

For exhibitors, the point is that most all will be at the same starting gate as the format uses templates that will look the same to start. So, it will be the content you present, its quality both visually and in substance that will separate you rather than the size, scale or placement of your booth in Las Vegas. This can be a real advantage if you think about it.

For both exhibitors and attendees, the platform allows for solicitations for direct communication and video meetings. You can search the database to do this, and this is the first time CES has ever allowed access. While not a mailing list, this alone can be of enormous value if you have a plan of execution.

The platform will be up for the days of the show, and also for a month to follow. This gives plenty of time to set up meetings, as well as to compile research and comparison of the offers. How many of us have rushed around the millions of square feet to even try to do this, so this too can be very advantageous.

Like all shows, the key is preparation and planning. Simply going to a show and wandering around may be fun, impressive and useful; but having key goals, trying to set up meetings in advance, having a plan to address the media, target customers and other aspects that is worked before, during and in this case after the show is what consistently produces the best outcomes. Too many disappointed exhibitors and attendees have come away thinking it was a waste of time, but did they ask for the meeting? Did they give a compelling reason for the media or customer to visit?

It will be the same with this show. We at bluesalve partners have some clear ideas and recommendations on how to work this and other virtual events, vendors to use, budgets to consider and more. We think there are a lot of things you can do to win here, and virtual may give you some opportunities live events did not. If you want or need some advice or help to develop a plan to win at CES or other virtual events, contact us. We know we can help and provide some valuable perspective.

At bluesalve partners, we have an active product development process we can share with clients to accelerate and improve their batting average. Better outcomes are good for everyone, the firms, the industry, and their customers. Let’s all get better together.

Bluesalve partners is committed to accelerating change, growth and success for our clients.