Future of Trade Shows: Going Digital

It might not be preferable; it might not even be ideal – but the virtual trade show is here to stay.

So far, Cornerstone has participated in two virtual expos, and we are invited to more every week. Remember back at the beginning of COVID when everyone had webinars every day in March and April? Well, now that the industry has the technology developing to host online trade shows, we are similarly seeing them pop up in every corner. Will the novelty wear off after a while like with those webinars? Perhaps. But will everyone take advantage of the trend in the meantime? Absolutely!

Like regular tradeshows and webinars, these virtual events can be hit and miss. The biggest and most immediate boon however is their price tag. Compared to physically attending a tradeshow (which includes not just registration and booth fees, but travel costs, hotel expenses, meals, etc) … the digital alternative is far easier on the wallet. This is especially good news in the world of COVID exhausted coffers. This also means that achieving a return on the investment of attending the show is easier, and the show itself becomes more profitable.

That price tag also opens up attendance to smaller businesses and agencies who may have found the expense of attending trade shows too daunting. This might be the biggest bonus of all.

Are people attending these virtual shows?

So far, the answer is “yes”. Each event Cornerstone has attended drew in thousands of registrants, many of whom attended virtual talks, webinars, and events during the conferences. We got a lot of “foot traffic” at both, and were excited to see and chat with both new faces, and with people, we miss seeing in person at industry events.

As for other companies? This is also a resounding “yes”!  We have been joined so far by many familiar names in our virtual expo floors, all of them ready to chat via the platforms’ instant message programs.

Pros and Cons

Obviously, nothing is going to replace speaking to prospects and clients in person. However, so long as we are unable to do that, the general consensus of every attendee we interview is that these shows are far better than not gathering at all.

That being said, we have definitely noticed differences in the hosting platforms that expos are using. Right now, since the “virtual tradeshow industry” is so new, there are not many platforms to choose from. However, some are obviously more robust than others. From chatrooms to booth organization, we have to stick by the idea and get through the current growing pains in order to see how these early adopters grow. For example, right now interaction with attendees in any platform has been relegated to text chatting. Hopefully, soon, video calls will be integrated and commonplace.

A Trend For The Future

As we go forward and (hopefully soon) emerge from this pandemic era, we do not foresee virtual events going away entirely. They are simply too convenient, too cost-effective, and too easy to put on compared to the “real thing”.

Will we rejoice in seeing the big events come back to being in person? Absolutely. We don’t foresee industry giants going virtual for decades to come. However, smaller events can absolutely benefit from this trend and developing technology. We also predict that more events popping up in the future that might be more specialized. Since the cost is less and the effort to bring everyone together is less, then more niche or specialized summits could become a very easy thing to accomplish.

This trend of more shows might very well be driven by the fact that new players with limited budgets can attend them in droves. Virtual events might not only be for niche categories but to see who are the “up and coming” players. Startups and smaller agencies could flourish at these for many years to come.

For now, we know that the whole industry is taking every advantage that we can. We look forward to seeing all of you at the next one!