Deb Wolf - Spotlight Blog Series

Impact of COVID and In-Person Trade Shows

We’re emerging from the pandemic of 2020 a little more each day. Does that mean business as usual? Doubtful, but nonetheless, a bit of normalcy is welcomed by all. This includes the traditional experience of in-person trade shows, which are particularly common in the industry of manufacturing!

Throughout the years, conferences, events, and exhibitions have fearlessly accommodated change no matter the challenge presented. Just as exhibitors must develop new products to showcase, the trade show industry was required to develop new strategies to acclimate to the pandemic. The saying, ‘there are no problems, only solutions’, was the proper mindset to have in 2020. I believe the hiatus and learning moments served as a benefit for all marketers.

COVID-19 managed to bring trade shows and exhibitions to a screeching halt last year. It left many of us feeling defeated and forcing us to question the future of trade shows. But when a door closes, a window opens – the situation lent itself to new possibilities, including the movement of virtual trade shows.

Virtual Trade Shows

A quick pivot to move events to a virtual setting during the pandemic proved to have its share of issues. One of the biggest issues of virtual shows, in my opinion, was that not many exhibit houses had meaningful experiences in full-blown virtual booths, especially in a visual format that required a similar transaction to an in-person trade show experience. The virtual events had to be visually appealing and easy to navigate while being capable of captivating an audience for the duration of the event.

Regardless, the screeching halt of in-person trade shows produced a huge impact, and we will likely see some lasting effects. Online features will continue to be a part of the trade show experience moving forward, and we will all get much better at navigating the virtual platforms, similar to how we became more accustomed to virtual video calls.

In-Person Shows in a Post-COVID World

It’s still questionable if everything in a corporate event environment will ever return to ‘normal’, but you can expect that contactless technology will be implemented in areas such as registration and catering. I would also anticipate the educational sessions to also be impacted and continue to have a virtual component.

Trade show exposure is key to business development for many companies. Sure, you may be able to hold out for a couple of years without trade shows, but in the long run, the savings will not replace the revenue you could earn through the promotion of new products, services, or business opportunities with the trade show experience.

If you have fears that trade show traffic in 2021 won’t reach the levels of prior years, consider this: your exhibit and conversations are separating you from the competition because some are hesitant and waiting for ‘normalcy’. Let’s move forward! Now is the time to step up, dust off the display booth, secure your show location, and show off those new products and improvement modifications of older products.

A lot of us have a new appreciation for personal connections since the pandemic, especially in a business that values face-to-face interaction. As you prepare for your first in-person trade show experience since the lockdown, it’s recommended you verify in advance the states’ guidelines for COVID-19-related restrictions.

Many of us are hungry for face-to-face interactions, including your sales teams. Let’s equip them for success by being prepared for anything unprecedented during these transitional times.

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