The spread of COVID-19 has forced nations around the world to enact strict travel and social distancing regulations. Live gatherings of people aren’t just irresponsible – they are now impossible. This has impacted major global sporting, cultural, and political events. Trade shows are no exception: Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and Germany’s Hannover Messe, to name a few, have been canceled entirely – for the first time ever.
Organizers of all kinds of events are now trying to mitigate financial losses by entering negotiations with suppliers and service providers. After all, exhibitors and visitors will expect attendance fees returned. Companies are requesting patience and understanding while outcomes are reached.
Other organizers are stepping up the development of digital information and networking platforms to create an alternative offering.
The Reality Could Be Virtual
The race for alternative solutions has led to innovations such as the ARC Advisory Group’s virtual forum. A scaled-down, reduced-price version of its ARC European Industry Forum, the event will use virtual tools for live streaming of user presentations and panel discussions. Audience interaction will also be possible through video conferencing applications.
Technology now allows us to have a trade fair experience at home. Virtual exhibition spaces, like the one IndustryExpo and V-Ex have created, are gathering attention. Here, exhibitors can provide interactive content at virtual stands. Visitors are free to navigate the hall and collect promotional items as they walk around. Co-creators V-Ex are now offering to relocate existing trade shows onto the platform, in light of recent events.
That said, some products with a touch-and-feel element might not be as marketable through a computer or mobile phone display. Also, employees of a certain generation might be skeptical doing business that doesn’t end with a handshake. Teams will need to weigh-up their individual pros and cons to determine whether this is a time- and cost-effective solution. Some good to come out of this: Trade show cancelations present companies with more time to reassess.
That means that plants experiencing reduced production now have capacity to consider process modernization. Now could be the time to modernize – and that’s not just true for the process industry.
Increasing automation, evaluating an AI strategy, and using cloud-based infrastructure for data transparency are just some ways that companies can better manage such crisis situations in the future.
Initiative is already being shown, as companies make working from home mandatory to continue providing a service to customers. If event organizers – assisted by cloud-based technologies and virtual platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, and WebEx – express the same “show must go on” attitude, then businesses will limit the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. It could even return in a stronger position. And if these methods prove effective, this could be the beginning of a new change in mindset towards trade fairs.