The future of trade shows will feature virtual and in-person events. This new hybrid could bring trade shows to the next level. How prepared are you to face this new environment?
As the world begins to redefine normalcy, some of the changes we’ve experienced during the last 15 months are here to stay. Virtual events and contactless experiences are going to be woven into the way we do things now. It is important to make adjustments now rather than later to stay relevant. This is a unique time to reimagine what the trade show experience can be. How can we engage with a wider audience? How can we use technology to make the trade show experience accessible to those who are not ready to travel or be in a busy exhibit hall? How can we interact with booth visitors safely while still building connections?
When trade shows were suspended in 2020, buyers and sellers were forced to get creative to showcase products in ways they’ve never done in the past. The introduction of virtual events was a key turning point in the world of sales. This expanded opportunities for reaching a broader audience with greater ease and convenience.
Moving forward, we will see the trade show experience be widely available both online and in-person to accommodate the widest audience. It will be important to meet customers where they feel comfortable. Many factors will affect how customers decide to engage with the trade show environment and while safety is the number one concern it’s also important to think about budget, travel restrictions, timeline, duration, availability of resources, staff, and more.
Attending virtual events is significantly more budget-friendly than traveling to in-person events. Even though the majority of the world is itching to get back to in-person events, some of the benefits of virtual events outweigh the costs. After having to adjust the budgets around trade shows in 2020, buyers and sellers will be more frugal in the way they choose to spend their money post-pandemic. Creating digital presentation spaces requires more planning and execution in the production of content. However, this content is valuable and should be able to be leveraged in the future in other applications. By thinking this way, the ROI for that trade show budget makes a much bigger impact.
“Moving forward, we will see the trade show experience be widely available both online and in-person to accommodate the widest audience.”
Since trade shows are such an integral part of the buying and networking process, companies are eager to bring back some form of in-person events as quickly as possible. After such a long time of quarantine, people are more than ready to get back to in-person events. Impatience mixed with trepidation is how most of us are feeling. For those on a sales team, there is probably more than an urgency to get back to how things were before. Face-to-face engagement is the foundation of a trade show. However, there is an opportunity to grow relationships with a wider variety of people when meeting virtually. Finding the balance between virtual and in-person events is a big deliberation in the industry. A hybrid of the two, is probably what the future holds for most companies. So how can you make the transitions as effortlessly as possible? Plan, Plan, Plan.
Many companies have been using digital platforms within the booth experience for a while now with great success. Technology has helped them keep track of attendees, present videos on screen walls, or let attendees experience their products in VR. The possibilities are endless and if you’ve been to a big show, you’ve seen some amazing booths yourself. But these were substantial budgets usually line-itemed just for the trade show. With the start of virtual events, the challenge became pivoting both content and budget to fit the new parameters. Big companies with big budgets were nimble enough to do this quickly. Smaller companies with tighter budgets had to wait and see how they could best utilize their budgets. 2020 saw many marketing budgets slashed significantly. Now as we come out of the pandemic we are faced with integrating virtual events into our traditional trade show experiences and budgets. How can we do both successfully?
If you’re part of a bigger company that can adjust budgets to accommodate this new line item quickly, consider yourself very lucky. Many companies are struggling to find the budget to create content that will work in a virtual setting. The truth is, when working virtually or in a hybrid situation, you will need more content. It’s not realistic to depend on your reps to drive the engagement with just their own knowledge and conversation. Hybrid settings will demand some sort of content production to engage audiences and provide them with an experience that drives interactivity and interest. It has now become imperative for companies of all sizes to incorporate some sort of digital content into their overall plan for trade shows. But what does this mean exactly?
Digital content could mean a lot of different things depending on the size of your company, your trade show experience, and your specific industry and audience. The key in planning is to go back to basics.
At its core, your trade show experience should be leading TO the product instead of with the product. The first step is recognizing the customer’s needs and then showing them how your product fits. Let them tell you where they have an insufficiency and guide them through your options for a solution. The trick is to do it in a way that nobody else is.
Technology is no longer just a tool in the experience, it is the whole experience. Everyone will be looking for the bigger and better thing. So, the best way to intrigue an audience is to be that bigger and better thing. But that doesn’t mean you have to construct a huge virtual reality space to showcase your product and make a mark with technology. Sometimes the best investment is considering the flexibility and longevity of the technology you’re going to use. How can I truly get the biggest bang for my buck? How the technology is used to tell your story should be your priority in planning.
Tips for standing out in a crowded trade show environment:
- Providing interactive features that introduce the product in a captivating way. Uniquely presenting the product will draw bigger and broader audiences.
- Allow the customer to experience the product in a new light. Provide ways for the customer to touch, feel, and understand its effects. Putting this information in a brochure will not cut it anymore.
- Tell a story and take the customer on a visual journey. Set up a scenario that they feel is relatable to their situation to better understand how the product will be utilized.
The trade show environment will now be a twin-channel experience. The option to go in-person or virtually will be around for the foreseeable future. As with everything in this world, experiences evolve and adapt to a new environment. The current environment demands innovation. So it’s vital that your digital content be able to work just as easily in a virtual environment as it does with your rep right there to guide the interaction.
Implementing a new form of presentation is no easy task. However, seeking out experts and becoming early adopters of new technologies will set you up for the most success now and into the future. Find a provider who can help you look at your marketing goals and evaluate the best way to incorporate digital content into your booth experience. This may mean looking to companies beyond those traditional exhibit services. Bringing in a company that provides flexibility and adaptability in how your content is leveraged can help you make the transition to hybrid trade shows more manageable to your team and your budget. Always ask, “Can I use this beyond the traditional trade show and how?” Use that budget wisely as you make the jump to hybrid.
Digital platforms, like Command.App, are the future of proactive marketing. Interactive features, navigational flexibility, and toolset add-ons let you customize your digital app experience. Having all of your presentation materials stored in one place ensures that your team is prepared for whatever sales situation may arise in the traditional booth experience as well as the virtual or hybrid setting.
For some booth experiences, this may mean that your audience is easily able to navigate the touch screen kiosk to find information on their own. This interactivity can be the initial engagement for booth visitors. And remember, for some visitors, this may be the only interaction they want. For some industries, where face-to-face interactions are more readily embraced, once the visitors are engaged with your product or service, an app on their tablet provides a way for the sales team to interact with the visitor. The reps can use the tablet or kiosk to navigate to the content they know will drive the conversation or pull up specific content they need to answer a question. Whichever route your sales team and customers feel comfortable with, make sure your digital platform has the flexibility to handle either. The bottom line is that the environment of trade shows is going to be fluid and changing as different industries, countries, and demographics are vaccinated. The key is to make sure your content delivery method (and your budget) is nimble enough to handle whatever situation arises over the next year.
As we prepare to enter the new age of trade shows, it’s important to recognize that things will look different and the way people interact will be different. Being adaptable to these new normals is the key to success in the post-pandemic trade show circuit. Navigating this new normal will be a learning curve for everyone, so take comfort in knowing that we are all in the same boat. The key to adapting is to find an expert who can help you get creative and be ready to embrace new technologies that will help you pivot your trade show experience.
Click here to learn more about how Comand.App can help you present with confidence at your next trade show.