Digital Trade Fairs – the new normal in 2021?

Digital Trade Fairs – the new normal in 2021?

What have we learnt in this crazy year 2020? Video conferences are the norm, and so is social distancing with colleagues. Work in the communications industry is largely the same, but what it’s missing is personal communication. Customers are physically absent from the shops, at meetings and events. And of course personal exchanges at trade fairs is missing. A trade fair was always something exciting — setting up on time, getting customer invitations out, securing press atttendees. And now? Everything is different. Companies that were regulars at trade shows are now doing virtual events instead.

Help, everything digital!?

Practice has shown in 2020 that trade fair organisers were sometimes technically and conceptually overburdened to reproduce a presence fair 1:1 digitally. Starting with the fact that only a few trade fair visitors take the trouble to take a tour of several stands online. Often the hurdles are too high, for example when logging in or during the registration procedure. If the trade fair server is overloaded, nothing works and the patience of visitors and exhibitors is put to a hard test. As a result, potential customers have often only made a few selected appointments. Virtually, only a few visitors saw the whole exhibition, unlike a physical event. Both trade fair organisers and exhibitors draw their conclusions from this experience and will continue to develop further.

As an agency, we have advised our clients to take a digital trade fair presence seriously. The rejection of the stand builder alone is not enough. A simple Q&A with a spokesperson from your company during a digital trade fair is not enough. A trade fair appearance in digital format should not be underestimated. Here too, companies are in competition with each other, and there are always companies that make the perfect appearance.

In order to provide our customers with the best service, we develop comprehensive consulting packages. Our core competence, working with media representatives, takes place digitally. Media and advertising planning in advance is largely unaffected, whether a trade fair takes place in in-person or digitally. What was really exciting for all of us was the planning of the actual trade fair appearance. What does a digital room look like, how many rooms are needed and which employees are available? In close consultation and agreement with the customers, we worked out the customers’ trade fair programme together and supported them in a technical and communicative capacity.

In order to be noticed in the digital space, the package included the regular use of all necessary social media channels such as LinkedIn, Xing, Instagram and YouTube. In the run-up to the trade fair, we advertised in trade magazines, the same channels we would use for a physical fair. We also placed PR articles in the trade journals.

Lead generation with content

Anyone who goes to a trade fair as an exhibitor or takes part in it virtually must have something to report. As an agency, we offer advice in finding the right topics and in creating professionally prepared content. In contrast to real trade fairs, German trade fair visitors do not first and foremost seek personal contact, but are looking for really good content. They prefer to use the time they spend on your stand to consume your content rather than chatting with you. For this reason: the content must be prepared in such a way that it attracts visitors to the virtual stand and thus becomes the best tool for your lead generation.

The target group

You also need to know your target group really well. So well that you can assess how they will react to the digital appearance of your company. “All business is local”, and this experience was reflected in the Intergeo digital 2020. The international audience was much less afraid to log into an event live and with pictures via video.

Summary and outlook

At present, we see no way back to normality before the corona pandemic. Video conferences and home offices are now part of everyday life and it is impossible to imagine life without them. Physical fairs have been in crisis for quite some time now, and in 2019 there was already a hail of cancellations of fairs in Germany. The pandemic has greatly accelerated this process. We think that decisions must be made on an industry-specific basis. There are industries where a trade fair fulfils its purpose, such as an order fair in the fashion or sporting goods sector. In many other sectors, negotiations take place throughout the year and there is no need for a personal meeting at a trade fair. Transferring a trade fair concept 1:1 into a digital space will not work for everyone. Smaller and more flexible formats will be required in the future. Companies should not wait and see what the market offers them, but should take action themselves. Why not offer a roadshow or an in-house exhibition virtually. As an agency we are called upon here to proactively develop concepts for our customers.

By Petra Winklbauer & Liane Lahl, Fortis PR