As the effects of Covid-19 spread throughout the world, many are left wondering what life will look like when we emerge out on the other side? The impact on the exhibition industry was felt immediately with social gatherings being banned and therefore shows inevitably being cancelled. So what will the exhibition and conference world look like post-virus? Will face-to-face events be a thing of the past?

… TV was meant to kill movies and radio.
… The internet only killed fax machines.
… Netflix didn’t kill cinemas or TV.

You get my drift!

Covid-19 won’t kill exhibitions. It will just change them.

Of course, in the current climate the traditional face-to-face show is having to be put on hold, the virtual space is really proving to hold its own with some being turned into ‘virtual trade shows’ as brands try to stay connected to their audience. While virtual connectivity is helping many of us adapt in times of difficulty with relative ease, it is doubtful that it will fully replace face-to-face shows moving forward. Well, that’s our opinion here at The Exhibit Company. Yes, there is a change of landscape happening rapidly before our eyes, but this has happened before in different ways.

Before you read on… Please note that this is our OPINION. No one has a crystal ball that can accurately predict what will happen. We are just using a bit of logic and interpreting the conversations we have been having with others as they map out their plans.

Just think of when the TV was invented – It was predicted to kill radio and movies. The bias changed towards TV but both those other mediums still exist because they adapted and modified their offers. They still held value to people interacting with them.

Online businesses were going to make brick and mortar stores a thing of the past. No matter the number of online businesses popping up there is still a huge need (and want) for physical stores because they provide what internet stores can’t. Consumers value the experience, not just convenience. We can make a pretty damn good Nespresso coffee at home, but as a nation we love a trip to the cafe where we embrace the staff, the feeling of community and of course, the caffeine 🙂

We can’t see anything replacing trade shows because you just can’t beat an environment that acts as a platform to share a wide variety of businesses in one place. You simply can’t forge the same kind of relationships in any other manner than face-to-face.

While we are in difficult and uncertain times, we see businesses embracing exhibitions and conferences once more as a way to reconnect with audiences and demonstrate that they are still in the game. When you’re face-to-face, both brand and visitor can see if they are a good fit for each other and start to build the trust needed for long term successful business relationships. There is something extremely equalising about this virus that has brought so many people together. We predict that will flow into the world of expo’s too. A solid dose of cabin fever will result in people rushing out to experience the freedom we used to take for granted.

The online world is growing at a really fast pace and it’s forcing people to adapt and start thinking more strategically about what they offer and how to draw the audience in. They have to in order to stay current. Don’t and you’ll be left behind.

There is no substitute for face-to-face communication. Public behaviour will change – people may be less “touchy” and we may have stricter hygiene rules. Rightfully so! But we feel that the basics of going to a venue to see, talk, share and interact with others will stay the same.

We are social animals, and the more society removes us from personal interaction the more we crave it – as evidenced by Italians in isolation singing from their balconies. Or going on a diet!

Now are the times when we need to lead with certainty and positivity. We need to show up! To demonstrate that while things are changing, the core values of connection, trust and personal interaction are vital to building businesses that last and succeed in uncertain times.

 “Good times build confidence and difficult times build character.” Joey Wat, CEO, Yum China Holdings

We are keen to hear your thoughts on the future of exhibitions. Do you feel positive about the future of face to face shows? Are you continuing to plan and strategise for your next show? We’d love to hear from you!