Trade Shows—Will They Be Back?

  • Sep 8, 2020

The pandemic has slammed the brakes on one industry that touches so many others, and that is the trade show industry. Whether manufacturing, technology, education, professional services, healthcare, or yes, printing and promotions, practically every type of business has traditionally relied on trade shows to either help to sell their products/services, or to learn about the latest things from other companies in order to be successful in their own. The combination of government restrictions, uncertainty, fear, and common sense has resulted in the cancellation of practically all of these in-person events for 2020, and at least the early part of 2021.

The big question is “will they be back, and when?” The past six months have shown that trying to predict the future is fraught with danger. It’s an important question for every business, and APTCO is no exception. Helping others to market successfully through trade shows has been a big part of our business for decades, and we have regularly attended to stay on top of the latest developments and ideas. One of our supplier partners who specializes in exhibit booths and graphics conducted a survey of nearly 450 businesses in a wide variety of industries, to get a feel for the long-term impact of the pause in booth marketing. Here are some of the conclusions.

83% of respondents believed that trade shows will be back to “normal” in 2021, with over half of those believing it will be after the first quarter of the year. In the meantime, many events have been converted to virtual events (with varying degrees of success.) But everyone is still learning the best methods for these kinds of interactions. While 53% of those surveyed did not believe that virtual events would ever replace the real thing, that leaves 47% who aren't so sure. 22% said they could foresee the possibility, while the other 25% simply felt it was too early to say. (The survey was concluded before June 1.) It would be interesting to see how these responses might change in the next six months.

There’s no denying the power and value of in-person contacts. We’re all missing it. But it’s also likely that for some of us, certain habits have changed for good. While many feel overloaded with video meetings, they may never go away entirely. When they are weighed as just one of the available options (rather than the only choice), they’ll come to the top of the list for some because of the elimination of travel, saving both time and money. People like to touch and feel, so product expos will return. But it may be quite a while before they get to be as big as they were last year.

Trade show booth

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