In the past year, more and more businesses have pivoted from in-person events to virtual events. These virtual events have become a lifeline for businesses of all kinds during the pandemic, sustaining the interaction integral to their business dealings that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Trade shows allow businesses to have meaningful interaction with clients and prospects alike. We have seen what happens when in-person shows are no longer an option for the time being. Going virtual is an appealing option for sales and marketing teams to fill the current void. But what happens when in-person events are cleared again? Will businesses revert to tradition or forge ahead with the new normal?

Over 30,000 trade shows and exhibitions take place each year. These events are critical for people to learn and discover what is new in their industry, build connections, create partnerships, generate leads, and close deals. Most businesses couldn’t stand to cancel or postpone their trade shows and lose these invaluable marketing and branding opportunities, so they went virtual due to necessity.

Trade shows are arguably one of the hardest events to translate virtually. They are entirely built around the in-person experience of walking the floor, exploring booths, and constantly being engaged. It can be incredibly difficult to translate this value to an online platform, but many businesses have successfully done so over the past year.

Now, trade shows, fairs, and annual conferences are quickly being re-imagined as digital-only. The cat is out of the bag, so to speak. People have discovered that business can be effectively conducted through virtual means, which means high-dollar, in-person trade shows are likely to be scaled back in the future. With more and more events going online, the physical spaces, the size of the booth, and the location on the expo floor now do not determine a business’s return-on-investment.

Exhibition producers have discussed the necessity of pivoting toward content-driven, virtual trade shows in which exhibitors shift their investment to high production value presentations. Ensuring the audience feels engaged and enriched by the experience is no longer just an option—it’s a requirement for virtual events. Trade shows are very sensory in nature, whether you are touching a product or shaking someone’s hand to build a business relationship. Therefore, the sensory value of traditional trade shows has to be transferred and heightened in visual value. As a solution, some businesses have even turned to virtual reality booths!

Interactivity and networking is now being brought to a digital expo floor with rapid success. Virtual attendees can still explore a daily calendar of events, browse exhibitors by category, and book appointments for virtual demonstrations and one-on-one chats all without any travel expense. Virtual platforms have allowed more people to actually attend than in-person events, generating more exposure for businesses. People have more immediate access to knowledge and more opportunity to network with specific individuals in real-time.

Will people want to go back to in-person events when they have high-value, pre-recorded or livestreamed sessions on-demand?

What are your thoughts on virtual trade shows? Do you think they have a place in the future of business?

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