Amid the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, trade shows and conventions have pretty much stopped or trickled down to a bare minimum. Although some companies tried virtual meetings, they didn’t have the same impact with very few members in attendance.
So, what exactly does the future hold for the trade show industry?
Before diving into how the pandemic has impacted it, let’s discuss what a trade show is and what happens there.
What is a Trade Show?
A trade show is a temporary event, usually held in different recurring intervals. Its purpose is to bring members of particular industries together, allowing them to display, discuss, and demonstrate their latest products and services.
In larger cities like Los Angeles-CA, trade shows take place at convention centers. In contrast, a local trade show may be held in a local ground or hotel to connect with prospective clients and can even be called a trade fair or exposition.
The primary objective of this event is to interact with industry members and educate them about the latest innovation in your business. As a result, most trade shows only permit the attendance of industry members and are often closed off to the public. For instance, a Book Expo will only allow members of the publishing industry to attend. Similarly, an Electronics Show will limit its attendees only to the professionals of electronics and technology. The west coast is one of the most dynamic regions in the U.S. Hence, the highly attended trade shows Los Angeles CA have to offer display products and services from various industries.
What happens at Trade Shows?
Although trade shows in different regions may vary, typically, they all follow the same type of event program, often providing:
- Space for product exhibition
- Workshops and presentations
- Opportunities with the press and media
- Networking events
- Targeted exhibition displays
- Award ceremonies
- Breakout sessions
The two major parties in a trade show are the exhibitors and the attendees. Exhibitors attend the event to create relationships with potential new customers, connect with dealers and distributors, and network with media and influencers.
Attendees also enjoy a few benefits of coming to the show. They get to familiarize themselves with the latest products and technology, take advantage of special promotions and discounts from exhibitors, and learn more about the industry.
The Future of the Trade Show Industry
Like other aspects of the industry, trade shows are also expected to undergo change and innovation. Here are some insights into how the industry will most likely evolve in the upcoming months.
1. More intentional and thoughtful
Many companies are rearranging their priorities in the face of uncertainty. The best strategy for any business is to spend minimal resources and gain maximum profits. Mostly because customers want suppliers who can meet their exact requirements without compromising quality or cost.
Identifying their target audience can help companies create intentional and thoughtful displays, attracting the right clients. Trade shows can have better interactions by narrowing the marketing scope to more manageable individuals. Intentional advertisement will be more effective because it will allow organizations to spend resources on the people likely to pay back as long-term contracts or bulk orders.
Using a data-driven approach to recognize the right audience can help businesses design experiences that specifically cater to their customer’s needs.
2. In-person gathering and live experiences
Many organizations tried holding virtual meetings during the pandemic to demonstrate their products. However, attendee engagement was generally inferior compared to previously held live events. Even those in attendance only stayed for a little while and took minimum participation during interactive sessions.
Lockdowns and quarantines have made people sick and tired of being kept in isolation-most crave physical interaction and cannot wait until things go back to the norm. Once the restrictions relax soon, trade shows can continue in-person gatherings and live experiences for exhibitors and attendees.
More importantly, people now value face-to-face communication instead of taking it for granted. The quality of attendees will improve as a result, and all members of the industry will have the opportunity to build the right connections.
3. Some displays may be outside the box
Companies like the automotive industry are expanding their horizons, both literally and figuratively. Since not all attendees will likely be comfortable with large crowds, it makes sense to move exhibits outdoors. New cars and vehicles can be showcased in auto shows in auto shows, so participants can examine them as closely as they like. They can even take them out on rides and enjoy other outdoor activities like eating or listening to music as they ride. Similarly, small and traditional trade shows could follow the same path to attract more attendees and maintain the drive to maintain business as usual.
4. A changing workforce
Many companies that participate in trade shows have had to downsize dramatically in recent years. The pandemic has helped organizations highlight areas to save and investments that must be made. For organizing trade shows in the future, these companies will look to hire local contractors as it will allow them to reduce health and travel risks. It will also be more cost-effective to hire locals than fly out a fleet of workers for a 3-days event. With uncertainties about shipping and global trade, building something in the workshop and transporting it across the country is no longer efficient.
5. Digital options to recruit more attendees
The opportunity for hybrid trade shows is a new and viable option. Some of the most popular companies plan to resume in-person activities with the choice of tuning in virtually. A hybrid trade show is not all face-to-face, and it is not all online either. Instead, it is a little bit of both. Combining a live event with a virtual tool will bring in-person attendees to the online audience. For accommodating those who can travel along with those stuck behind a computer screen, hybrid trade shows allow a position that suits both types of audiences. Implementing this strategy can create opportunities for new clients to attend events and benefit both the exhibitors and the participants.
Participation in trade shows influences sales in three ways: continued selling to existing customers, new buyers dissatisfied with current suppliers, and clients attracted to a unique offering. While the trade show industry must adapt to growing changes, its importance cannot be overstated. If anything, trade shows should be encouraged more now to help businesses regain their footing and build more powerful networks.