When Trade Shows Go Dark

Jennifer Davis

Last year, over nine thousand trade shows and B2B events contributed $101 billion to the U.S. economy. But in the last several weeks, due to CoVID-19, venues, organizers,and exhibitors have lost billions to canceled shows and conferences. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), between March and May each year,about 2,500 B2B events are held nationwide. Nevertheless, based on a recent economic impact study, it is estimated that 50-80% have already canceled or will likely do so in the coming weeks.

Many businesses depend on trade shows as pivotal events for managing vendor relationships and building their sales funnel. Booth spaces are reserved, flights booked,meetings set, and merchandise giveaways ordered. But now, weeks and months of planning and preparation have gone up in smoke. Even though some events have notcanceled outright, their postponement doesn’t always come with an official date. Events held at a later date could face logistical issues with overlap from other events already scheduled at that time. There is also the situation of diminished momentum, which could lead to less than typical ROI due to reduced amenities, activities, and attendees.

Despite present conditions, important industry events still need to happen, and business must go on. Through the use of technology, we can create communities that support industry progress. During times of exceptional circumstances, the only option is to embrace other ways of communicating and doing business through technology.

Whether your business is new to the market or has an established reputation, online events are a great way to bring trade show materials to life in an online environment.

Attendees use trade shows to learn about the latest technologies that will help reach their business goals. Trade shows determine the industry calendar by which companies aim to announce product upgrades, new releases, or partnerships. Without trade shows, companies gain the freedom to make announcements when ready, with no need to rush or pump the brakes, to fall in line with the show timelines.

Webinars and online events can also showcase a business’ industry expertise. Established companies can create a presentation on how the market has evolved and where they see it going. Your company’s industry expertise and the expert knowledge of your executives can be shared poignantly in a webinar custom designed for your prospective audiences.

To get started, take a deep dive into your CRM and create audience profiles for your typical clients. Then, combine knowledge from your business development and customer service teams to identify the clients’ most pressing objectives and pain points. When you can create an event that addresses your audience’s immediate concerns, the results are more engagement, better feedback, and ultimately conversion.

The ability to interact with a working product is important, and companies are using live stream events to circumvent the issue of social distancing. By setting up a live stream product demo at a predetermined time, clients and attendees have the option to “drop- in” and chat at their convenience. To build an audience, social, and email strategies for promoting the event will need to be consistent and well-executed, right up until the event. To maximize value, demo events should be staffed by team members who can showcase the product, its value proposition, differentiators, and answer high-level questions from the audience.

Over the next several months, teamwork will be an essential part of every business equation. In the upheaval of transitioning workspaces and less access to colleagues, open communication and consistency will help keep business progressing in the right direction.

While the future of trade shows may be uncertain, your marketing strategy doesn’t have to be. When it comes to hosting online events, webinars are a powerful way to amplify messaging, introduce new products, and bring long term value to your company. For more information, check out our blog post “Why Webinars Work.”

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