The Future of In-Person Trade Shows

The Future of In-Person Trade Shows

It is safe to say that every business and industry has felt the impact of COVID-19 since the pandemic first struck. Like other in-person events, trade shows have had to pivot, adjust, and rethink how business can be operated. From these efforts, we have seen the rise in digital conventions, virtual webinars, and other online alternatives that have attempted to fulfill the connective value trade shows have on business.

As vaccinations become more widespread and businesses begin to enter a new phase, brands and organizers are looking to see what will become of the future of trade shows. In this blog, we will dive into the important role trade shows serve for businesses and agencies, the changes happening with attendee values, and what to consider when entering the new age of trade shows. 

Trade Shows Before the Pandemic

According to Shopify, a trade show is “an event held to bring together members of a particular industry to display, demonstrate, and discuss their latest products and services.” Dating as far back as 3000 BCE, businesses have used trade shows as collective events to facilitate commerce, educate consumers, and act as a hub for commercial and cultural exchange. The history of modern trade shows is one that, despite changing technology through time, has evolved and adapted in tandem with the business world.

Moving away from its origins simply focused on the transactional sale of goods, trade shows have become hubs for networking and connection. While the internet can digitally connect people across the globe, trade shows are one of the unique times when major players in specific markets come together face-to-face to showcase the latest innovations and share their products and offerings to the world. Whether you are a business looking for exposure or a distributor looking for your next client, trade shows bring together like-minded people under one roof for a chance to connect. 

Still, everything has a tradeoff. In exchange for attending these magnetic events, they do come at a cost. From the ticket price of an event pass to the costs of travel and time, these are all valuable things to consider now more than ever. In a report by FTI Consulting analyzing sentiments around the post-pandemic trade show industry, 58% of respondents noted that their trade show budget had decreased compared to pre-COVID levels. While this is unsurprising, it is notable that when asked about their predictions for budgets in a post-lockdown world, “46% said there was an intent to increase their budget above pre-pandemic levels.” This is a promising outlook that notes respondent’s belief that there still is great value in in-person trade shows moving forward. 

The Future of Trade Shows

Like many uncertainties today, the future of in-person trade shows is still in the air. Nevertheless, as vaccinations reduce the risk at in-person events, businesses are beginning to ease their way back into the trade show circuit.

While businesses are looking to get back into trade shows, attendee priorities have shifted with the changes in the world. According to the report, the top trade show objectives for smaller companies were networking, selling products/services, and showcasing products/services (in that order). Networking and selling products/services both have grown in post-pandemic importance while showcasing products and services has decreased in importance. For larger companies, the top three objectives were building brand awareness, networking, and showcasing products/services. With bigger companies, building brand awareness and networking have increased in importance in contrast to the decrease of importance with showcasing products/services. As a business reevaluates whether attending a trade show is worth the cost, it is important to understand the shift in priorities based on the needs of your business.

Still, commercial businesses are not the only attendees of trade shows. Additionally, these changes also impact agencies and other companies looking to connect and partner with vendors and brands. As the needs of businesses change, so will trade show attendance. Agencies and other third parties must reevaluate if the same trade shows they were attending pre-pandemic offer the same value and clientele that they aim to connect with today. Overall, as companies reenter the trade show world, they must be aware of the cultural shifts that may affect their bottom line.

Here is a quick checklist of questions to ask yourself when considering coming back to the trade show circuit:

  1. Is this tradeshow still worth the investment for your brand or agency? While certain trade shows may have been beneficial historically, do they still offer the same value given the shifts in attendee sentiment?
  2. What are the safety guidelines? This goes without saying, but it is more crucial than ever to understand and follow the safety guidelines set by event organizers. Additionally, during a pandemic, a trade show’s safety guidelines alone can be a big asset or determinant for attending.
  3. How can you take advantage of the moment? Having face-to-face interactions in today’s world has much more meaning and value than it did pre-pandemic. Going into these events, what are ways you can use this time to set your business or agency apart and create those connections and partnerships?

Final Thoughts

While the future is still uncertain, the new normal is being forged as we speak. Trade shows have reemerged and are ready to serve their purpose: to connect. Still, we must not forget the large cultural and industry changes that will impact the industry. Those who adjust and adapt to the changing environment will be the ones who are able to make the most of the new trade show world. 

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Motivating Your Team During COVID-19

Motivating Your Team During COVID-19

Every Monday at 11AM, River Direct (RD) has a company-wide meeting to discuss campaign strategy and media performance for the previous week.  The entire RD staff squeezes into our main conference room to discuss media and the overall DTC marketplace. We are a small agency with a very family-oriented culture, so the meeting is also a great time to catch up with one another.

Unfortunately, that weekly gathering came to an abrupt halt with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the initial weeks of COVID-19, there was naturally a great deal of uncertainty. River Direct employees started to work from home, and everyone had a lot of questions, but nobody seemed to have any answers.

How long are we going to work from home? Should I wear a mask, don’t wear a mask, how many times a day should I wash my hands, what should I use?  Am I going to get sick, am I going to lose my job, are our clients going to stop advertising?  What’s going to happen to my family and friends?

All valid questions and concerns, but at the end of the day, we still had a business to run and clients that depended on us. But how do you motivate your team during a pandemic?

EASY, a good old-fashioned wager.  As VP of Client Services, I wanted to keep things fun. Give our media team a seemingly UNREALISTIC GOAL and BET them that they couldn’t reach it. But what do you bet your team when they think the world is coming to an end? Money, stock options, gold bullion? BORING! So, without thinking it through fully, I said, “I will give myself a MOHAWK, if you are able to increase our billings (insert crazy percentage here)!”  At first, I immediately regretted what I said, but with the crazy number I threw out, I wasn’t TOO worried about it.

The media team had just one week to increase our overall billings, which is not a ton of time by any means. By the end of the week they had gotten within 5% of the goal and almost won the bet. A smart man who loves his hair would have learned his lesson and walked away. Not this guy, I doubled down. They came so close on the initial bet, so I felt it was only sporting to give them another shot. Our budgets were surging, and our clients were also doing very well. But push as they may, the team came up short once again.  Since our budgets kept growing, I decided to roll the dice one last time, but this time, the team needed to hit an even higher goal.  I thought: There was no way that was going to happen. So far, my salt and pepper locks had evaded the cold steel jaws of a Phillips trimmer. 

Once again, I anxiously watched the budgets grow by the minute. I knew my hair was gone when someone added two huge high-profile airings on a prime network. The team started chirping, “Get those clippers ready!”, and “Can’t wait to see your new do!”.  I pulled the budget report one last time, and sure enough, our team surpassed their goal. When I told my wife I lost the bet, she just snickered and looked at me like I was a child. Being a man of my word, I got my first ever mohawk, and I kind of liked it!

Fast forward to the Monday Zoom meeting, everyone had their cameras on except me. I thought that maybe they forgot about our bet and nobody would notice I had mine off. Not so much. As soon as I logged on, everyone said, “Turn on your camera, let’s see it!”. I clicked “Start Video,” and there I was, a grown man with a mohawk on a Zoom meeting in front of the entire company.

 

It’s never fun to lose your  hair as a result of a wager, but in this case, it was a fun way to motivate our team and keep things light.  

At the end of the day, a lot of great things came from this silly little wager. We hit our highest budgets to date this year, everyone qualified for a nice incentive, our clients had great results, and I got the haircut I always wanted, but was too scared to get. Most importantly, it was a great motivator and fun distraction that took our minds off of the pandemic for a brief moment… so it was ALL WORTH IT!

 

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COVID-19: Potential Short-Term & Long-Term Effects on Advertising

COVID-19: Potential Short-Term & Long-Term Effects on Advertising

Just four weeks ago, before our world was upended by the coronavirus strain known as COVID-19, no one would have foreseen that weeks later, our healthy economy would come crashing to a grinding halt.  This happened at an unprecedented rate, and was so quick in its onset.  With most of the nation confined to our homes without outside contact, many are fearful what the future holds.  

As a media agency, we have been through crises in the past of political, social and financial natures.  We have survived some of nation’s most trying times, including 9/11 and the Great Recession of 2008. Through our experience, we have seen certain trends and are anticipating that this may play out in a “similar” fashion.  Being in the direct response and DTC industry, our benefit in the past, and as it is right now, is our ability to know “how the population is responding to our advertising.”  We can see if they are going to the websites, calling the phones and ordering the products.  We have seen in the past and are experiencing it today, that Direct to Consumer products that make things easier at home are the ones that will trend (i.e., home cooking, exercise, education, well-being, vitamins, minerals and other supplements).  People will be looking for ways to save money and feel better about themselves (home care, beauty) as they exit the “quarantine” and wait for the economics to adjust.

Due to shelter-in-home orders, viewership levels are up, but people are not necessarily responding in mass due to the economic downturn they are personally feeling or apprehensive about.  Thus, in trying times, River Direct works closely with TV stations and digital publishers to make sure that the rates being charged, are commensurate with the audience delivered and the orders being generated.  General advertisers have a tendency to pull media when a crisis of this nature occurs and thus, media rates decline. 

Many of our clients have asked us how we anticipate things playing out in the advertising/media buying world.  Due to the unchartered nature of the current crisis, there’s no way of knowing – however, we offer a few scenarios: 

Best-case Scenario: Social distancing works and the virus peters out by early May/June.   People begin to go back to work and receive paychecks, economy starts to improve.  The media will start to pick up slowly as people gain confidence.  People will pull out their wallets and order product.  The general-rate advertisers will come back into the space “slowly” (Q3) allowing direct response/DTC to take advantage of the situation from May going forward….4th quarter ends up being more aggressively pursued and election dollars go into the market as planned.

Delayed-Recovery Scenario: The virus starts to disappear between June and end of July….in direct response we are able to take advantage knowing how people are feeling and make it through third quarter and hope there are no virus rebounds and anticipate a strong 4th quarter for direct response; with General advertisers having a bit more trepidation but still engaged.  Election dollars are there and rates are reasonable.

Lengthy-Recovery Scenario: The virus is not contained, and has a resurgence in places where we thought it had gone away and doesn’t disappear until late summer.  Economy is slow in getting back to speed and trepidation continues to occur in the market place.   The summer months’ rates decline precipitously and people are not confident and don’t have extra monies to spend and are not purchasing product.  Personal financial burdens are tough and advertising in general is soft.  We always have the advantage in knowing what to pay based upon response, but the fear is people slow down their purchasing because of the economic setback.  The ad industry for 4thquarter is soft for general advertisers and those doing campaign advertising will get the ads for a very low rate due to decreased demand. 

So here we are in early April, trying to predict the future, as everyone else in the world is trying to do the same.  In our hearts, we are anticipating the “Best-case Scenario” and at worst, hoping for the “Delayed-Recovery Scenario.”  Most importantly, we are all praying that our nation is able to work together to keep the loss of lives at a minimum, and to recover as quickly as possible on all fronts.

Related Articles:

https://hbr.org/2009/04/how-to-market-in-a-downturn-2

https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/349698/marketers-time-to-dust-off-maslows-hierarchy-of.html