Will Trade Shows Go (Stay) Virtual in 2022? Here’s Why Virtual Trade Shows are Nothing to be Afraid of.
Those of us who eagerly looked forward to in-person events last year may have more waiting to do. Thanks to COVID variants like Omicron, many trade shows, conferences and other corporate events are adjusting their plans or waiting to see what the coming weeks bring.
Take the CES technology industry trade show that took place this month in Las Vegas. Late last year, the Consumer Technology Association, which hosts the event, received several “no” replies to their RSVPs. These cancellations came from big-name exhibitors, like Amazon, Google, Intel, Microsoft and others, who declined to attend in person. All of them cited pandemic concerns.
While organizers had hoped for a return to normalcy, that seems a little farther away now, and other industry conferences are coming to similar conclusions. So, how does a virtual trade show sound to you?
Skeptical? Don’t be. We’ll tell you why the recent news about trade shows and other events isn’t as bad as you fear.
A Trade Shows, Conferences and Corporate Events Will Continue to Draw Attendees
Here’s what won’t change: the end goal. All trade shows and event organizers will continue to design experiences that will encourage attendee engagement and boost business for participants. And those experiences will continue to draw crowds.
What may vary is, first, how different in-person events will approach health and safety guidelines and, second, how they’ll incorporate virtual or hybrid elements.
As people get accustomed to dealing with COVID variants and adjusting their expectations, there will still be opportunities to bring people together in limited ways. But never again will event organizers rely solely on in-person events. As we discussed in a previous blog, hybrid events are here to stay. And, based on how many ideas and innovations are coming to the fore, they’ll only get more interesting.
Don’t take our word for it. Look at the predictions from these event industry insiders:
Predictions About Virtual Trade Shows from the Event Planning Industry
Marc Herron, Senior Vice President of strategy at Philly-based Sparks, feels optimistic and expects 2022 to be a strong year for virtual trade shows and other corporate events. Going forward, he sees “continued trends in hyper-personalization, connected technologies, smart storytelling, integrated virtual/live formats” and more for upcoming events.
Bob Priest-Heck, CEO at Freeman — an event planning company in Dallas — agrees: “2022 is going to be about taking all of the things we’ve learned during the pandemic, like the acceleration of digital, and bringing it all together for can’t-miss experiences.”
Industry experts also predict that trade show participants who agree to attend events in person will need to be incentivized more than they’ve been in the past. Some predict that more exclusive face-to-face events or tiered offerings will become the norm. Others argue that technology will play a pivotal role in drawing people in and giving them relevant content and meaningful experiences.
4 Virtual Event Myths and Misconceptions it’s Time to Drop
So, if you’re still wringing your hands over the number of in-person attendees and exhibitors, but neglecting to level up with virtual or hybrid offerings, you may be focusing on the wrong thing.
Let’s bust some misconceptions about virtual events.
(1) People Don’t Like to Attend Virtual Events.
Actually, many people prefer online events to endless booth visits or show floor presentations. Think about it. They don’t have to book a flight, save receipts, or negotiate with HR for time off or reimbursement. They don’t even have to suffer through awkward happy hours. And as for project managers and exhibitors, they’re saving money on booth staff and other incentives they may have funded in the past.
(2) Virtual and Hybrid Events are Too Complicated.
Just as event organizers and planning teams handle the details of physical events, there are teams out there who handle virtual events. It’s not more complicated — it’s just different. When you partner with the right video content studio and tech experts, you can trust them to handle the prep work and logistics. They’ll do the troubleshooting for you, so you can focus on making connections with your audience.
(3) Trade Show Attendees Won’t Really Engage at a Virtual Event.
Sure, it can more challenging to hold attention when it comes to pre-recorded videos and some virtual events (like our last Zoom meeting). But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, especially not when it comes to a virtual trade show in a participant’s wheelhouse. And as virtual attendees have gotten more accustomed to digital tools, the opportunities for engagement have skyrocketed.
Virtual platforms and online resources have gone way beyond digital brochures and message boards. Today, event attendees can participate in live demos, Q&A sessions, online polls and quizzes, chat channels and games. Keep reading and we’ll show you.
(4) It’s Hard to Monetize Virtual Events.
Ever heard of online advertising? There are plenty of opportunities and spaces for ads on virtual event platforms, and they’re just as lucrative as print or signage. And you can still promote sponsored sessions at online trade shows, just like you can at in-person trade shows.
Okay, you may say, but I’m in manufacturing or B2B. Virtual events aren’t designed for businesses like mine. Well, this next part is for you.
Virtual Product Launches and Online Trade Show Strategies for B2B Industries
Virtual trade shows can mimic physical, in-person events on virtual event platforms — but they can do more than that, too. Virtual exhibitors, for example, can make use of fully customized virtual booths, exhibit halls, shopping carts, live or pre-recorded video presentations, scheduled one-to-one meetings — and even ai powered matchmaking tools to connect with the right people.
Here are some examples of how industries such as technology, automotive and others can approach the virtual side of event management:
- Virtual Product Launch – Webinars and product demos are a great way to share details about a product. As attendees learn, they can place an order directly online or network with others in a group chat. You can access and display live results as attendees engage with your exhibitors. And attendees can ask questions via an online chatroom. Plus, a live event can be recorded and distributed on social channels and other online platforms.
- Virtual Motor Show – No, attendees don’t get to sit in the car or kick the tires. But car enthusiasts, journalists and prospective buyers can still learn about new models. Consider how effective test drive videos, 360-degree views and chat tools could be, with or without an exhibition hall. Your target audience knows what they’re looking for, and they can find it at a virtual show just like they can at an in person event.
- Virtual Trade Show for Tech or Manufacturing Products – Again, virtual attendees have an opportunity to learn everything about your manufacturing or tech products, from A to Z, in virtual exhibitor booths. But presenters can engage with audiences through other strategies, too, such as gamification or ai powered matchmaking, to reach a wider audience. If you depend on in person events to boost lead generation and fill your sales pipeline, it’s time to add these virtual event tactics to your list of trade show must-haves.
Event Success Doesn’t Depend on a Live Audience. Find Out as You Plan Your Next Virtual Trade Show.
As you can see, exhibitors and attendees alike can benefit from virtual elements, even if they plan to attend their next trade fair in person.
The reason we’re so optimistic about the future of corporate events and trade shows is because we’ve seen what the right virtual event platform can do, and how engaged an online audience can be. All it takes is a little creativity and the right video production team.
If you’re interested in making your virtual trade show as successful (or more) than your father’s trade show, let us know. Let us spruce up your old-school trade show booths with virtual exhibits, a comprehensive video strategy and other virtual resources that boost engagement, capture leads and make follow-up a breeze.