A different, more inclusive future awaits exhibitions
By Erik Nijveld, Co-Founder & CEO of TechnologyCatalogue.com
Conferences and exhibitions in major industries have been viewed for years as effective venues to build and reconnect with your network, learn new insights into the industry, and seek potential leads. COVID-19 has prevented or seriously limited the majority of face-to-face conferences in 2020 and 2021, but they are fortunately coming back as the health risks brought by the global pandemic have been contained and managed.
Face-to-face conferences are back, but the entire networking, knowledge-sharing and lead generation landscapes have changed forever.
My recent conference and exhibition experience—it was worth it, but…
I was glad to be part of a couple of them recently, of which one was a very large conference and exhibition with more than 1000 companies present. I will focus my comments on that one.
The format was largely similar as in the past: you register for the event and you get access to insightful plenary and group sessions as well as to the exhibition floor where hundreds of companies are showcasing their technologies or solutions.
To make the most of the event, I used the exhibition website and app to find the most relevant companies. This was not an easy task. The website and app helped in pointing out the specific position of companies on the exhibition floor, but it was a challenge to find the companies that I was most interested in. This was not a unique experience; I’ve experienced the same with essentially every exhibition I have visited in the past.
The exhibition itself was overwhelming. You could walk around for hours searching for what you are most interested in. Again, this was similar to most exhibitions I’ve been to in the past. During networking events in the evenings, I spoke with several suppliers with booths at the exhibition. They did indicate that the exhibition resulted in some good potential leads, although the value of these needs to be measured relative to the cost of the booths. The reality is that, by themselves, exhibitions are not the only-or even the most effective-means of networking and connecting suppliers to potential customers. As effective as they can be, conferences and exhibitions are like discrete dates that need to be complemented with true relationship building.
That does not mean that the visit was not worthwhile. Actually, it definitely was, but what really made it worthwhile were the knowledge sharing and networking events in conjunction with those exhibitions. With so many people in town, I managed to bump into many great people, with serendipity that is difficult to experience with online events. My visit was worth it because for me it was ‘just’ the cost of flight, hotel and other travel expenses. If you have a booth costing you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, you may think differently about the value of exhibitions.
Exhibitions are here to stay, but will evolve in the near future
The above does not mean that there is no future for exhibitions, but I do firmly believe that the future of exhibitions will be different from today. I expect that the overall number of exhibitions will drop, and their sizes will shrink to more sustainable levels.
The ones that are likely to remain are those linked to high-quality conferences organised by one or more of the well-established industry associations. The events organised by these influential industry associations are anchored and reliant on the strong community composed of members and alumni. The ties are so deep that annual or semi-annual gatherings have been part of their professional and, to some extent, personal lives. These gatherings would be their chance to reconnect with former colleagues, old mentors or even to friends. There may be some exceptions, but I do believe this is the direction in which exhibitions will be going.
Future of exhibitions: value that goes beyond the exhibition floor
Exhibition organisers have a great network, and it would be of significant value to put this network and its ability to generate business leads to work, not just during the exhibition, but throughout the year, whereby the exhibitions can be used for targeted networking. It will also allow the exhibition organisers to evenly deploy their resources during the year, and not just during stressful peak events.
This is where TechnoloyCatalogue.com platform shines. It serves as the online virtual counterpart of the physical exhibition floor except that it’s significantly easier for exhibitors to get noticed by the visitors who are intently looking for them… whenever, from wherever.
Beside the global platform, TechnologyCatalogue.com delivers team spaces or customised areas for end-user companies, only accessible to their own employees. This area within the TechnologyCatalogue.com infrastructure, is filled with relevant technologies, based on the business needs and selection criteria of the company. Functionality can thereby be added to streamline the technology delivery and maximise the value from the technology deployment activities. Such a team space also allows for effective knowledge sharing among colleagues.
Similar to the way that TechnologyCatalogue.com delivers private spaces to companies, its spaces can also be delivered to exhibition organisers, and their network. Such a space uses the same underlying engine as used for TechnologyCatalogue.com, and can therefore be delivered cost-effectively. The space becomes a virtual 24/7 exhibition, whereby the access rights are controlled by the exhibition organiser. Through such space, connections between suppliers and end-users become evergreen, supporting knowledge sharing throughout the year.
Such 24/7 virtual exhibitions are not just effective in between physical in-person events. Whenever those events take place, it helps suppliers and end-users to make the most of such events. It can truly help to make “Serendipity less serendipitous”, as someone once put it during an event at MIT.
A 24/7 virtual exhibition also offers attractive revenue opportunities to exhibition organisers, allowing for new packages that offer varying types of access that cater to the differing needs of exhibitors and visitors. Data from visitors’ behaviour while on the online exhibition can also be captured, providing exhibitors and exhibition organisers alike with more insights that are valuable for their business.
Interested to discuss further? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subscribe to our Newsletter