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Virtual conferencing is an excellent temporary replacement for face-toface meetings ...but chemistry is important too... Art Basel Hong Kong had to shift viewing for its popular art galleries to a virtual trade show due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo courtesy of Art Basel

In the case of United Fresh Live!, officials said 40 percent of the first 1,000 registrations were people who had not attended the show before, which suggests well-developed digital offerings might be a worthwhile investment for any show hoping to extend its attendee list. While everyone seems to agree that face-to-face marketing is the gold standard for a sales environment, some think that, as virtual events become the norm, it could signal the death knell for the exhibition industry as we knew it pre-pandemic. The tradeshow industry has bandied for the past decade about the prevalence of virtual events and whether they would surpass live events eventually. That debate rages on, especially now with marketers and buyers who need to @ExhibitCityNews

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do business forced to participate in virtual events when they would have typically attended one in person. With more time, it might become the norm, some speculate. Researchers of the exhibition and event industry don’t think so. “Tradeshows are very sensory in nature,” Cathy Breden, CEO of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, told Crain’s New York Business. “You use all five senses to feel and experience them, whether that’s examining a new product or shaking someone’s hand to build a relationship.” In an article discussing the question of whether virtual tradeshows would replace in-person events, RetailWire enlisted the feedback of dozens of executives affiliated in some way with exhibiting. Some said yes they will, noting that once company executives

on both sides of the aisle see how much money is saved by a virtual event, many will put the kibosh on travel budgets. Others in the Retail Wire “brain trust” felt that, while virtual events in the future may take a bite out of in-person events, tradeshows will eventually be buzzing again with live attendees because a digital connection cannot replicate that experience. “Virtual conferencing is an excellent temporary replacement for face-to-face meetings,” says Ed Rosenbaum, CEO of Rainmaker Solutions. “After the dust settles we will continue to see more virtual meetings conducted during the sales process. The one thing that cannot be accomplished by these virtual meetings is chemistry. Chemistry is important to develop during the sales process. It is often the one

thing that will separate one company from another with all other factors being equal.” Others agree, noting “Zoom-fatigue” and the misery of sitting in front of a computer for hours on end. “I can see the continuation of virtual conferences or meetings. But a virtual tradeshow makes no sense to me,” says Gene Detroyer, an international business professor at Guizhou University of Finance and Economics. “I have been on both sides of tradeshows. As an exhibitor, I always had to take deep breaths because of how much they cost. But I could never see an alternative. The personal interaction it creates with the product and the people is priceless. Given a choice to spend less or more, I always chose more. “And the same goes for the other side. You spend days walking aisles to find the one thing that fits your needs. As awful as those days were, I can’t even imagine how awful being online for days doing the same thing would be.” ExhibitCityNews.com July/August 2020 23

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Profile for Exhibit City News

Exhibit City News - July/August 2020  

Exhibit City News - July/August 2020  

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