What will events look like in 2021?
We’ve all heard, “necessity is the mother of invention.” The pandemic has certainly brought out some creative ideas regarding trade shows. With all the digital versions of nearly everything — meetings, education, tradeshows — one wonders if these changes will be permanent?
A few months ago, I spent a morning at a trade show booth — my first time since walking the IFPE show in Las Vegas in March. But this was the new virtual trade show hall from igus, the German-based motion plastics manufacturer. I was invited to tag along as one of the company’s large customers was escorted around the booth.
Virtual tradeshows were touted as the next big thing back in the late 1990s and the publishing company I worked for then pushed a ridiculously expensive version of them. That vision involved awkward avatars moving around a virtual trade floor. And, unsurprisingly, it ended in disaster.
This, thankfully, was a more intelligent way for a manufacturer to proceed. The main screen shows a view of the company’s actual tradeshow booth, set up in its Cologne headquarters facility. You can move in any direction to different areas of the booth. Once at a technology area, click on any product that looks interesting. A video of a corporate expert appears, describing the item. Most are a few minutes in length, giving some basics of the product, including how it improves on earlier models or competitive products, and listing sample applications.
While I’m not hoping tradeshows go the way of the dinosaur, when will people get comfortable with business travel again? My guess is that the first half of 2021 will look a lot like 2020, and we’ll start seeing actual events in the second half. I’m already seeing some associations say they’ll push ahead with late Spring events. Some shows normally held in the first part of the year are already announcing new dates in late Summer or Fall of 2021.
A lot will likely depend on the availability of vaccine(s) and how effective they are. Fortunately, the longer we fight Covid-19, the more we learn about what measures can minimize our risks. And Zoom fatigue has become a thing already — imagine what it’ll be like in another six months! So, fingers crossed that our paths will cross sometime in 2021 on a show floor in Chicago or Las Vegas or Orlando. In the meantime, stay safe!
Paul J. Heney – VP, Editorial Director
On Twitter @wtwh_paulheney