As a regional – and sometimes international – hub for meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions (MICE), you probably have come across all sorts of trade shows and exhibitions that are meant for B2B networking and business opportunities.
This is on top of consumer-facing shows that sell anything from exotic food, IT gadgets, baby products, and more.
As a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, MICE organisers have begun to move their mega-conferences and trade shows online, using virtual platforms to allow exhibitors to hawk their wares, and attendees to network and browse from wherever they are.
Given their prevalence, here’s what companies need to know about how effective are these virtual trade shows – and are they worth the time and money to attend.
What Are Virtual Trade Shows?
As you know, exhibition and trade shows are time-limited events where a number of exhibitors set up booths to showcase their products and services, with the aim of making sales, forging partnerships, signing clients, or attracting investors. Sometimes, there might be ancillary activities held in conjunction with the trade shows, such as keynote speeches, live demos, informal networking sessions, or closed-door presentations.
Virtual trade shows use technology to replicate the trade show experience, and seek to allow exhibitors and attendees to accomplish everything they could when attending a physical show. These include 3D walkthroughs of an actual exhibition hall, augmented reality renders of physical products, video conferencing, and ‘live’ streaming feeds of presentations.
Why Attend A Virtual Trade Show?
The reasons for attending a trade show are still valid for virtual trade shows, since they allow you to do pretty much most of what you do at a physical trade show – minus the fun travel and perhaps informal fringe activities.
Apple has shown that it is possible to build hype and hold highly-anticipated (and highly-covered) launch events. With the right show organisers and exhibitors, virtual trade shows can still be an excellent marquee event that give businesses and consumers a glimpse into what the future holds for new products, services and technology.
In addition to publicity, sales and partnership opportunities, trade shows can also be a great way to research the competition, as well as gauge consumer response to new launches. By getting students or fresh graduates to attend, companies can also sell themselves to prospective talents.
Benefits Of Virtual Trade Shows Over Physical Events
Lower Costs: Without the need for physical space and logistics, it would be much cheaper to hold exhibitions and trade shows, which translates to cost savings to attendees as well. This also removes barriers to smaller companies or niche industries from holding their own fairs as well.
Removal Of Physical Constraints: Virtual fairs can be attended by virtually any number of people – from all over the world. There is no longer an issue with tickets being sold out, or companies only being able to send a few representatives.
More Time Efficient: Many would agree that attending trade shows is beneficial, but it does affect productivity, especially for those who need to travel overseas to attend. Virtual shows allow attendees and exhibitors to participate, while causing minimal disruption to their own work. This might mean more senior-level executives could attend, adding to the value of the shows.
Faster Turnaround: Traditionally, exhibition spaces are booked up months, or even years in advance, which makes quick events that can capture current trends hard to organise. Virtual fairs don’t have this issue, and can be held as and when opportunities arise.
Better Analytics And Follow-Up: In the hustle of the exhibition floor, it might be hard to keep track of who visited your booth or remember who had a sales query you needed to follow up on. Virtual platforms allow you to see who visited which page, who asked questions, and allow for better follow-up in future.
Post-COVID-19: Virtual Trade Shows Likely To Stay
Just as COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of video conferencing meetings and work from home culture, the MICE industry is also seeing a shift towards virtual trade shows.
Already, much of the tasks of physical trade shows can be replicated by their virtual counterparts, and we can expect that as technology platforms and event organisers become better, virtual shows might even supplant physical events as the first-choice platform for B2B and B2C events.
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