Are Trade Shows Dead?

Published 02/08/2021

The manufacturing industry has always relied heavily on trade shows for continuous growth. The ability to share ideas, display new products, and cultivate new business relationships is invaluable for any industry; for the purposes of this article however, we will be looking specifically at manufacturing.

The past year has proved difficult for everyone in some aspect or another. The outbreak of COVID-19 has posed particularly tough challenges on business. Companies have had to adopt the use of virtual meeting platforms to keep interpersonal communication constant. Events that used to be held in person have now either become extinct, put on hold, or have transitioned to a virtual experience.

R&D Technologies is a Stratasys reseller, supplier of most Stratasys product offerings, and a 3D parts business based out of Rhode Island. Since 3D printing is a constantly expanding and evolving industry, R&D Technologies recognizes the importance of live events such as trade shows. You have to be able to meet industry expansion with new demand and new customers who, in turn, help fuel future growth. Trade shows are an excellent environment to showcase new and interesting prototypes and even a new machine if your team can handle transporting it. So, what has happened to trade shows over the course of 2020?

Like many businesses, Trade Show organizers have decided to make the shift to virtual “live” events. Usually over the course of a day or two, an attendee or exhibitor will have access to a virtual environment very similar to that of a typical trade show; virtually rendered booths, keynote speaker presentations, and networking sessions are just a few offerings these online events may include. The production and planning that must go into these events is quite a significant achievement. And on top of that, having to field all of the questions participants will inevitably have seems daunting. A very impressive feat for these companies to have accomplished so quickly throughout 2020.  

Many of the virtual events have a few notable drawbacks. Speaking from the perspective of a booth exhibitor, R&D feels the attendee participation and interaction is much different from an in-person event. Attendees now have the ability to view all of your content offerings in a few clicks and then move on to the next booth. The lack of interaction is definitely a drawback. Although, if you are an attendee shopping around for many different products, some anonymity can be nice without having to interact with each booth representative. This shallower approach might be correlated to the cost of admission attending online events. Are attendees charged a fee for access to the online platform? In other words, how committed are the individuals who log in to an online event to strike up a conversation, investigate new products, and cultivate new business relationships? Food for thought when considering your next virtual event.  

Trade show companies have announced the return of live events sometime in the summer or fall of 2021. Take this with a grain of salt. No one could have predicted the longevity of this socially limiting pandemic. And with vaccines only recently released to first responders, no one can say for sure how long it will be before live events like trade shows return to normal. The online platforms created to substitute live events for now are acceptable. If you have not experienced one, R&D Technologies encourages you to dedicate an hour or two to exploring a virtual event that peaks your interest or is valuable to your business. Help stimulate new growth in your industry by expanding your network right from your computer screen.