I recently had a discussion with someone whom I’ve known for a long time. They were asking about the future of trade shows during this time of Covid-19. You could hear the doubt and frustration about the effects that this pandemic is having on trade shows of all sizes.
The question was: Will Trade Shows Just Disappear Now?
It’s a fair question when the bulk of the population is signed on to Zoom and other Live Online Meeting Platforms at the moment.
Sure, online video conferences aren’t going away, but neither are trade shows. We may see a further integration of video conferencing with physical trade shows in the future, but it’s won’t be a replacement…
…not by a long shot.
I remember back in 2008 when financial disaster had set in. Some show attendance and exhibitor rolls were down 40-50% or more in some cities. Some shows went out of business all together or merged with other shows. Remember ASR Show anyone?
At the time, everyone was looking for a cheaper alternative to reach new customers and the future seemed to be ‘virtual’ trade shows. Some software companies poured a lot of money into developing this technology, and failed.
It seemed like a good 21st century idea to have trade shows go the way of the Dodo bird like so many other ‘old economy’ industries before it like video movie stores and ma and pa hardware stores.
But the truth of the matter is trade shows won’t and can’t go anywhere. Sure they can be adapted to new technologies and made more ‘techy’ but they will be right back after the dust settles on this pandemic.
Don’t believe me? Consider the following:
There I said it. “Money”. Some things in life are simple and one of them is if something makes you money, you do it. If something doesn’t make you money, you don’t do it. As long as there are attendees looking to place orders and exhibitors looking to take orders and the overall exercise is profitable (or ROI positive) it will go on indefinitely.
Right now, so many companies devote large budgets towards trade shows to get in front of buyers who make purchasing decisions. That can’t happen right now due to Covid-19, but once they have the mechanisms in place whether it be vaccine/ therapeutics, herd immunity or what have you, then that coming together will still occur.
#2 Face-to-Face Interaction
Trade Shows are a vital Face-to-Face interaction that we as humans crave. Even more-so now than ever. This pandemic has reminded us all of the need to see, hug, share things with other people that video meetings just can’t do.
At trade shows, you see someone in person. You can read their body language, size up their character, shake hands, grab a morning coffee with them, etc. All irreplaceable by technology. Enhanced by technology? Sure, replaced? …never.
They say people do business with people they like. The only way to really get to know someone is in person. Take online dating for example: The online platform (whichever that may be), makes that initial first connection, but the next step is meeting in person.
#3 Feel & Touch Products or Live Demos
There is no substitute for attending a trade show and seeing products live in person. Let’s say you are at a travel trade show and there is an exhibitor that makes fine luggage made in Italy. You can feel the fine leather. You can smell how genuine it is and see the high quality stitching for yourself. Your senses allow you to evaluate the quality and workmanship that went into making the product.
Now think if you just saw photos of it on a website. Seeing is believing and yet another reason why trade shows will never die.
The Same is true for live demos. Some things just need an expert guiding you through to demonstrate how someting works. Think about a piece of machinery or software application used for manufacturing. Both are needing a guided explanation to fully understand how it works and this is much more efficient in person then through a choppy video conference.
#4 Industry Unity
There are trade shows for every industry big and small. There is even a trade show for people who do trade shows… Exhibitor Live. Some trade shows are annual, some semi-annual, etc depending on many factors, but this is an opportunity to get everyone in the same industry under one roof. Think of it as a big reunion of sorts with lots of commercial value.
Everyone marks off the dates each year an most are excited and looking forward to seeing the same faces or meeting new ones. It’s also a time for seminars and continuing education. To further master your trade or craft.
They say it’s ‘who you know, not what you know’. Trade Shows are able to find a perfect blend of both of those.
#5 Mix Business with Pleasure
This one isn’t talked about nearly as much, but the reality is trade shows are the perfect excuse to leave on a trip for business and combine it with a vacation. It isn’t a coincidence that the Anaheim Convention Center is just a few blocks from Disneyland.
Go to a show and get business done and then spend time with the family with the potential for some business write-offs (legally of course).
#6 It’s a Networking Event That Can Faciliate Career Advancement
Simply put, you may meet someone at a trade show that can help your career, give you a new job, hire you away from a competitor, etc. When most major players in one industry get together, you have a potent mix of people with opportunities.
Lastly, I don’t have any statistics so I’m going off pure guessing on this one, but I would guess that over the decades many people have met, started dating, gotten married and started families all because of chance encounters at trade shows. Sure it’s not the intended activity, but we are human and it helps to further illustrate that I could go on and on and on as to why trade shows will come back.
Trade Shows allow you to take a break from your daily routine and gain better perspective on the world through travel and meeting new people. Hear industry leaders speak and come back inspired and ready to advance your career or business.
It will not be this month, it may not be in 3 months, but they are coming back.
Bigger, Badder and more Bolder than Ever.