Tradeshow Marketing

Trade Shows in 2022 - The Impact of COVID-19 and After

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the trade show industry. Read this post to know how exhibitors should strategize trade shows in 2022.

To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the exhibition industry would be an understatement. According to a report, the global trade show industry contracted by 68% in 2020 compared to 2019. For exhibitors, this meant losing business to the tune of $330 billion.

With the world adjusting to the new normal, how should exhibitors approach trade shows in 2022? What should event managers be aware of while creating their trade show marketing plan? Take a look-

[READ- Re-ignite Your Trade Show Marketing Strategy with these 6 Tips]

1- The Trade Show Industry is Recovering

While organizers canceled most of the trade shows in 2020-21, things are returning to normal. According to a report, organizers canceled 97.9% of the in-person B2B trade shows in Q1 of 2021. But the number has fallen to just 9.2% in Q1 of 2022. 

Moreover, even in 2021, in-person trade shows were attended by more than 15 million people. The number is less than half of the pre-pandemic levels, but it was almost two times the number of attendees in 2020.

While it can take time for things to get back to normal, it is evident that the trade show industry is getting back on its feet, albeit slowly yet steadily.

Key Takeaways for Exhibitors

  • The number of attendees can be below expectations, making it difficult for exhibitors to generate positive ROI and ROO.
  • Be very careful with your trade show budget and only spend on things vital for the exhibit.
  • Keep a decent buffer in your budget to ensure you have adequate funds for emergencies like event postponement.

2- Virtual Events or In-Person Trade Shows?

With the cancelation of most in-person events due to the pandemic, most exhibitors relied on virtual trade shows to engage with the audience. But are virtual events the future of trade shows? The reports suggest otherwise.

According to a report-

  • 67% of the respondents who participated in virtual events said networking was not up to their expectations
  • 46% of respondents said they failed to gain expected leads at the virtual event they participated in
  • 33% of the respondents also said that the virtual event failed to meet their new product launch expectations

And it's not just about the exhibitors. Attendees prefer in-person events too. A study that surveyed 1,000 conference attendees stated that 72% of the people prefer in-person events.

Key Takeaways for Exhibitors

  • Prefer in-person trade shows over virtual events to achieve business objectives
  • If you'd still like to use virtual events, switch to a hybrid approach that adds a virtual online component to a physical event.
  • If travel restrictions are still in place, consider a series of smaller regional events over a single national event.

[READ- How to Choose the Right Trade Show for Your Business?]

3- Safety Remains a Prime Concern for Trade Shows in 2022

While the number of COVID-19 cases has stabilized all over the US, safety will remain a prime concern for trade shows in 2022. Several people will feel apprehensive about coming in close contact with so many attendees at the event.

Exhibitors and event organizers should take the necessary steps to make in-person events safer. Organizers should also advertise these measures to encourage businesses to participate in the event and people to attend.

Key Takeaways for Exhibitors

  • Use safety measures such as hand sanitizers, mask-wearing, and physical distancing at your booth
  • Design the booth in a way to ensure an adequate physical distance between attendees
  • Prefer an open booth design for sufficient ventilation
  • Train the booth staff to comply with the safety measures

4- Content Becomes the King for Exhibitions

The pandemic has made the majority of us prioritize relevance. As work-from-home became the order of the day, we found ourselves struggling between our professional and personal commitments.

The time crunch made us prioritize the necessary and eliminate everything unnecessary. This habit will spill over to almost all the other aspects of our lives, including expectations from trade shows in 2022.

In the post-pandemic world, the attendees are expected to become more subjective and expect exhibitors to enrich their professional lives.

Key Takeaways for Exhibitors

  • Prioritize event objectives and content quality
  • Consider booth activities such as custom trivia games that engage, educate, and entertain
  • Offer valuable content before, during, and after the trade show
  • Use blogs, newsletters, and social media to keep the target audience engaged with your brand

5. The Rise of Digital Technologies

From zoom meetings to online shopping, our lives revolved around digital technologies throughout the pandemic. Moreover, the impact of modern technologies on our lives has been such that we now prefer dealing with technologically advanced businesses.

Trade show exhibiting is highly effective in boosting brand awareness and creating the right impression in the eyes of the audience. Therefore, for trade shows in 2022 and beyond, exhibitors should look for ways to make themselves appear more technology-friendly.

Key Takeaways for Exhibitors

  • Prefer using automated lead collection solutions such as booth trivia games over physical lead forms and business card collection
  • Use LED displays and interactive walls for product demos and brand messaging in your booth space.
  • Digital catalogs are a big hit among modern consumers, and they also eliminate the need to carry or ship large piles of physical catalogs and brochures.
  • Social networking platforms are also great places to remain connected with the prospects and promote your exhibit.

Trade Shows in the Post-Pandemic World

While the trade show industry came to a standstill during the COVID-19 pandemic, things are returning to normal. The in-person experience offered by these events cannot be replicated by virtual trade shows, making physical exhibitions an invaluable marketing strategy for several businesses across the US. 

Note the points discussed above and adjust your trade show plan accordingly to boost the chances of achieving trade show objectives and generating impressive returns on your investments.

You can also check our latest work to know how trade show gamification works and how it can take you closer to your event objectives.



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