End of 2022 Q1 approaching, this year was labeled by many as “The great restart for the Exhibition Industry”. But how is the industry actually reacting? What is the underlying mood of the last few months? Is the market catching up with this year’s new challenges?
Let’s give a close look at 2022 (and its trends!)
Our CEO and 32-year-in-the-market expert Marco Barozzi was interviewed by colleagues from the National Trade Show Alliance about this year’s trends, innovations and all that is worth mentioning in the trade fair market right now.
To find clear answers about the present, we must first ask the right questions: what is the ultimate purpose of a trade show? Why are companies exhibiting at an event? What are their goals? What budget do they have?
Face-to-face cannot be ignored
If those who have exhibited or participated in a trade fair are aware of the purpose that it covers, it is not equally obvious that there are many people who are aware of what happens behind the scenes in the days and months preceding the event and the amount of work necessary for its preparation. It is true that technology and digitization have invaded our daily life, both human and professional, but it is equally true that “face to face” meetings such as those held during a trade fair will never lose value: human beings desire real-time, in-person connections to live and share memorable experiences.
This element has never been completely cancelled by Covid and it is strongly resurfacing in 2022, now that it has a chance to do so.
In need of renovation
The focus of the community of trade fair players, both domestic and international, is on how the industry is changing, what needs to change, and what we can do to make changes happen.
We know that the events industry has been static for many years and the Covid pandemic has served to remind us that it was inadequate for our times. Digitization and technology are becoming more and more important, which means that trade show and events have to evolve accordingly.
Sustainability and innovation will remain key words in this regard.
Speaking of challenges, this 2022 brings several to the table. Trade show operators and professionals will have many issues to face, especially companies that are bringing their events back to full capacity.
Regulations and legislation
One critical point highlighted by surveys is compliance with national regulations. Especially in Europe it was often difficult to navigate between the access permits to member states and the protocols for the organization of major events.
However, there are several resources made available both by the European Commission and by specialized associations and exhibitions centers, which can help to understand rules and regulations: Reopen Europe, European Exhibition Industry Alliance, UFI, Global Association for the Exhibition Industry, to name a few.
Travel restrictions and limitations on attendance to the pavilions due to social distancing protocols and rules (masks, temperature control, green pass/Covid certificate, negative Covid test). However, this should no longer be the case as the health situation continues to improve.
Directly related to the previous point: communication to visitors, i.e., being able to convey to attendees that it’s again safe to participate in person at shows and events. Surveys carried out on subjects who attended trade shows pre-pandemic underline several reasons why a substantial chunk of visitors still prefers live events over their totally digital counterparts.
Networking opportunities and greater comfort in doing business in-person are reasons that can be an excellent marketing lever to bring the audience back to walk the show floor.
However, being able to convey this added value to the public will be crucial in order to tap into their enthusiasm.
Hybrid channels: physical and digital
Another point considered critical both by exhibiting companies, which struggle to acquire the necessary digital skills – I think about SMEs, above all – and by visitors, who complain of limited involvement, is the use of online events. To address the problem and suggest a more gradual return to in-person shows, many organizers are promoting hybrid events, i.e., physical + digital.
When talking about hybrid events, it’s good to bear in mind a series of recommendations to successfully use this rapidly escalating trend, which has its own paradigms and peculiarities.
What will the winning format for hybrid events be? None can really say, because the market is constantly changing. For this reason, companies need to start working with maximum flexibility, a mindset ready for the unexpected and industry experts both in person and online. Digital has made certain marketing dynamics much clearer and measurable, as data has come to represent a gold mine in the hands of those able to turn it into valuable information.
A 2022 full of challenges and trends worth keeping an eye on, a continuous flow of news and transformations: the key for professionals is to embrace change, understanding why it is happening and what to do to be kept updated.