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We're back to physical trade fairs: what's the future of virtual events?

We're back to physical trade fairs: what's the future of virtual events?

Montse López
CMO & co-founder

Did you know…?

- 49.9% of industrial exhibitors think that from now on they will combine physical and virtual fairs as complementary events.

- From our experience, we predict a future where 70% of events will be live and 30% will be digital.

The COVID-19 crisis has profoundly disrupted the industry. One of the most affected aspects, due to its face-to-face nature, has been that of trade fairs. Both as visitors or exhibitors, trade shows are one of the most important tools that professionals have to do business and keep up with the latest innovations in their market. Without a doubt, we have missed them a lot over the last year and a half.

During the pandemic digital alternatives to large sector events have emerged everywhere, but in recent months we are experiencing a resurgence of large physical events:

  • Nearly 600 exhibiting companies gathered in Bilbao this October for +INDUSTRY, the largest Spanish fair dedicated to advanced manufacturing.
  • About 200 exhibitors have already confirmed their participation in Exposólidos, Polusólidos and Expofluidos, which will be held in Barcelona from February 1st to 3rd.
  • Navalia, the international naval fair that is held in Vigo every two years, already has 80% of the planned surface booked for its next edition, which will be held in May next year.
  • We are already seeing the birth of new fairs. This is the case with GrindingHub, a biennial event on the latest trends in grinding technology that will premiere next year in Stuttgart.

The year of virtual fairs

With mobility restrictions, virtual fairs have experienced a great boom. They are meeting points that are accessible by an unlimited number of potential partners and clients from anywhere in the world.

These online events have generally tried to maintain a format similar to that of traditional fairs, facilitating direct interactions between exhibitors and attendees through interactive features such as live chats, chat rooms, video calls, webinars, etc.

One of the main advantages of virtual trade shows is the accurate follow-up of all the contacts made through the fair platform, making it easy to analyse results and make decisions.

In addition, virtual fairs have the advantage that they significantly reduce the costs of travel, design and building of stands, etc.

However, online events lack the personal contact experience, face-to-face communication, and live product presentation. Physical fairs are a setting where salespeople can empathise with their customers, build trust and create interpersonal relationships, which are an irreplaceable sales tool.

That's why the live trade fairs are returning: because people want to see people.

A hybrid future

Physical shows are still fundamental, but new alternatives such as virtual fairs can be a complementary tool in some sectors. From our experience, we predict a future where 70% of events will be live and 30% will be digital.

Face-to-face trade fairs provide the opportunity for a more direct and personal interaction between the exhibitor and the visitor, as well as the potential customer being able to see and verify in person the quality of the products and services on display.

According to a survey carried out by Lectura, Anmopyc and TPI on the perspectives of more than 10,000 professionals from various industrial sectors in Spain and Latin America, 49.9% of exhibitors believe that from now on they will combine face-to-face and virtual fairs as complementary events.

Meeting in person is still the most demanded option when doing business, but it seems that some changes are here to stay. Speaking to the newspaper La Voz de Galicia, the director of Navalia analyses: «I see changes. For example, people used to go as many times as necessary to Madrid for meetings. Now companies are more selective about the type of events they attend, and they are fewer. If you used to go to 10 events every year, now you go to 5, both for economic reasons and because technology now allows a hybrid format».

At BCM Marketing we agree with this analysis. Face-to-face fairs are irreplaceable in the industrial sector, but they are no longer the only option for doing business.

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