Virtual events pose many questions

Jo Francis
Friday, June 26, 2020

Jo Francis has been watching virtual events with a combination of interest and boredom.

Today would have been the final day of Drupa 2020. Typing this while WFH, scorchio, with fan on full blast, I can but imagine how hot and sweaty things would have been dashing around the Messe, even on my trusty ‘Drupa scooter’.

Hopefully the revised April 2021 timeframe will at least be a bit more bearable in that regard.

Unsurprisingly, quite a few industry manufacturers have opted for ‘virtual events’ of one sort or another to fill the gap and showcase products that would have been launched at the 2020 expo.

Some of these events have been incredibly slick, some not so much. Some have been very good value in terms of the time investment involved, others have been like the half hour I spent waiting for Dominic Cummings to show up for his ludicrous justification speech in the garden at number 10 – time that was completely wasted and that I’ll never get back.

It is certainly going to be fascinating to see the extent to which virtual events take off in our post-Covid (or even continuing-Covid) world.

However, it's hard to see how even the cleverest online event platform can replicate some of the main benefits of being at a trade show in person: the physical actuality, the way a company can express its brand on its booth, the networking and the chance encounters that result in something beneficial for attendee and exhibitor.

I have neither the time nor inclination to spend my time wandering down a virtual trade show aisle in avatar form. If that makes me sound very last century, so be it. For me, it's all about the effective use of my time. But I will attend an online briefing if I believe the content will be of value.

Equally, there’s no getting away from the fact that an exhibition like Drupa involves vast expense for exhibitors. And don’t even get me started on the price-gouging by hoteliers in the region come Drupa-time.

A lot of things are up in the air (airplanes excepted) and will be reassessed as a result of this pandemic.

A whole new set of spreadsheets will have been drawn up around exhibition costs and expenses. The fact that firms have been forced down the virtual route could have long-lasting consequences for expos in general. 




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