Trade shows post-COVID-19. Business as usual, scaled-down or redundant?
Mention TMT trade show giants such as Mobile World Congress and the Consumer Electronics Show and hear the collective groan ripple across the room. Famed for their abilities to drain pockets, and cause insane amounts of tiredness, these tests of endurance are still seen as the places to go to see and be seen.
MWC was cancelled this year with CES in January squeaking in before the global lockdown - and subsequently being blamed for helping to spread the virus in the US.
With trade shows now on hold, or migrating to a virtual model to hold onto sponsorship deals and fees booked months ago, the events industry will continue to be devastated by COVID-19.
In March the UFI (the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry) estimated that COVID-19 had resulted in 500 trade shows and exhibitions worldwide being cancelled or postponed in Q1 and Q2 2020.
So, companies involved in staging exhibitions and for whom shows are a key part of their marketing strategy plus all the suppliers across the hotel, airline, entertainment, marketing, restaurant and other industries have all been hard hit.
In fact, The UFI estimated that, based on the current numbers and size of the events not taking place, €14.4 billion ($16.5 billion) of economic output has already been lost.
Tech marketing in the time of COVID: The Virtual Trade Show
Take a look at the calendar of Capacity Media, a b2b telecoms specialist publisher and events calendar. Spot a trend? Yes, its events are all virtual for now. Its flagship show for the wholesale industry, International Telecoms Week, took place June 15-18 and featured the normal array of tier 1 telecoms movers and shakers.
Long-time Redmill client, Simon Pearson of World Telecom Labs has attended ITW in-person for the past eight years. He listened to a few of the online debates and conference sessions over the four days this year and comments: "Although I appreciated not having to schlep to Chicago for ITW, of course any virtual show will not be able to replicate the main advantages of an actual live show which are the chance encounters and casual introductions which lead to business deals, the mini informal catch-ups with existing contacts and hearing the little snippets of industry and market news don’t make headlines but are interesting anyway”.
ITW also had a number of online socials including an online quiz, yoga and HIIT class although we don’t know of anyone who took part in these…
Re-allocating Your Trade Show Budget: Tech marketing in the time of COVID
If you’re sceptical about the value of an online trade show, and think that your precious marketing budget would be better spent elsewhere then, of course there are plenty of options.
For example, why not host your own online event? Some of our clients have invested in programmes to drive relevant content to their target audience, often culminating in a live event.
We’ve helped every step of the way including topic selection, messaging, content creation, campaign planning - and event delivery. We’ve even hosted a few both for vendor customers, as well as for event producers that have shifted to the cloud during the current situation.
One example is the first online “5G Briefing” held last week and hosted by Guy Redmill on behalf of conference organisers, HanseCom. This virtual briefing replaced an in-person event that usually happens in June and was used to keep the November 5G Briefing due to take place in Frankfurt in people’s minds - and diaries. The briefing was well-received, with lots of interesting debates and questions.
The key thing to remember is that sitting back and waiting for traditional events to return isn’t an option. We don’t know when they’ll be back, and maybe the huge 90,000+ events never will. So, anyone with something to sell - products and/or services - must make sure that they don’t miss opportunities to engage with existing customers, prospects and partners. After all, if you don’t, your competitors will.
It may seem trite, but business people are always willing to learn. They want to gauge the pulse, review insights from experts and to consume relevant content. Virtual events and campaigns can fill a gap.
So, why not have a chat with our team? We can advise and work with you to create compelling programmes covering complex issues so that you can reach your target audiences - and build pipelines for the future.