Area businesses have a digital option to reach out to their customers this year through the Princeton Area Chamber of Commerce’s virtual business expo.

The 36th annual Business and Community Virtual Expo will commence with a live portion of the event will from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 3, and the digital booths and displays will be available through April 4.

This year the usual booths will be represented by tiles on a website. Businesses can decide what to display on their tile and visitors can click it to chat with businesses live. Up to five visitors can enter an online booth at one time. The display of the tiles will regularly change online so every business will have access to the best spots, Executive Director Kim Young said.

During the live event, chamber staff will be going around town to broadcast videos from area businesses. Part of that broadcast includes submitted video demonstrations from Beyond Sports Taekwondo and Just for Kix, Young said.

Milaca businesses are invited to join the chamber this year, because the Milaca Chamber of Commerce opted not to hold an event. Those businesses will have a discounted rate compared to nonmembers.

The expo’s annual scavenger hunt also will take a different form this year. The usual questionnaire will be online and will require visiting the website of area businesses to learn the answers before submitting it. Each visitor also will be entered into a raffle to award random prizes.

The chamber is aware many people are experiencing “Zoom fatigue,” as Young put it, and may be tired of sitting in front of their computers, but going online is likely the only way.

“We felt it came down to a choice between offering something to our businesses or nothing, because we simply could not have hundreds of people inside one space,” Young said.

As talks about the event started happening, the chamber knew it could not host it in the high school gym like previous years.

“We want the kids back in school more than anything else, so we didn’t want to do anything to interfere with that,” Young said.

So the chamber opted to go online. The digital option could give businesses a wider reach than previous events, as no one has to drive in and there is little risk of cancellation due to inclement weather.

“We understand that this is a very different way of doing things, but we think that the reach is going to be huge for businesses that participate,” Young said.

March 12 is the official deadline to sign up for a booth, but businesses can sign up later. The deadline was set so businesses would have time to familiarize themselves with the virtual environment, but the chamber does not need to worry about a head count for reserving space this year, Young said.

Registration is $70 for Princeton chamber members, Milaca Area Chamber of Commerce members pay $80 and nonmembers pay $100 to sign up for a digital booth.

Businesses can find information on how to register, how to go live during the event and more at the chamber’s website, princetonmnchamber.org.

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