Trade shows are a popular—and sometimes crucial—way for companies to get their products and services in front of prospective customers and connections. In 2020 the arrival of the coronavirus meant hundreds of industry events were postponed or placed on hold indefinitely. Many companies are now looking for new ways to promote their brands and products. What are your trade show alternatives?
The massive events that attract tens of thousands of people may return in the future. For now, a new set of principles guide how companies approach events. It’s all about social distancing, sanitation, and size limits. These are important to help attendees stay safe while they enjoy themselves.
Virtual Events Are Safe and Effective
One obvious solution to the problems posed by COVID-19 is not to get people together in person at all and instead to opt for virtual events. With a virtual event, there’s no risk of infection transmission and no need to limit the number of attendees.
The face-to-face interaction virtual events lack they make up for in myriad ways:
- Hosting a virtual event gives you the opportunity to reach a potentially greater audience. People can attend an event online no matter where they live, as long as they have internet access. The reduced cost of attendance can boost interest too.
- They’re great for networking. A well-designed virtual event still encourages the kind of camaraderie that fosters long-term relationships. Lively real-time online discussions can provide plenty of exposure to build your brand and generate new leads.
- The data power they hold is unlike anything you could do at an in-person event. Learn more about virtual event analytics here.
Small Events Pose Less Risk
The bigger your event, the bigger the risk attendees might unknowingly spread infection. That’s why, right now, smaller is better. And, if possible, sticking to a local guest list is preferable. Depending on your goals, you may even find that small events are a better option than setting up a booth in a convention hall surrounded by thousands of others.
Large industry events can be exciting places to launch new products, but they’re not always the best fit. When you want to really connect with your audience, a smaller venue may suit your purpose. Small events of 50 to 75 people offer more chances for one-on-one interactions. And the smaller the guest list, the more time you have to make each interaction a high-quality one.
Outdoor Exhibits Allow for Social Distancing
If you’re concerned a small event won’t have the impact you’re driving for—for example, at a product launch—a larger event with social distancing precautions may be possible. Need a large audience but don’t want to compromise on safety? One effective solution is to take your event outside. In these days of social distancing, holding an outdoor event can help you strike a balance between crowd size and safety. Outdoors, there are no ventilation issues, and there’s room to spare. This means attendees have all the space they need to keep their distance while waiting in line or checking out your exhibit.
A great way to showcase your product or hold demos outdoors is by pairing your event with a mobile exhibit—or more than one. Outdoor exhibits are often portable by design. This makes setup and teardown easier and ensures your exhibit is ready to go any time.
If your exhibit proves successful at a local level, why not take it to other areas in your state or even on the road across the country?
On the Road with Mobile Exhibits
Even before the coronavirus, many exhibitors were looking outside the box for trade show alternatives. Touring a mobile exhibit, for instance, can be a great way of getting engagement and exposure. You still get to meet people, but it’s without the intense competition and frantic atmosphere of a trade show.
In the times of COVID-19, a mobile exhibit is an even more attractive prospect because it’s built with portability in mind. At its simplest, a mobile exhibit might be a single person with a few dozen brochures and a table for product demos. A large company might build a mobile exhibit in a vehicle or container and have a permanent team of staff to run it. In terms of safety, a mobile exhibit can work when deployed outdoors, in a place that makes distancing possible.
Face-to-face interactions are best for making and strengthening relationships. But, while industry events are effective, they’re often predictable in terms of the people you see at them. Taking your show on the road changes things up. Those in-person interactions can now happen anywhere, even in unexpected places. With a well-designed mobile exhibit, you can perform product demonstrations and tell your brand’s story to people across the country.
Permanent Installations Provide Long-Term Brand Messaging
A successful exhibit isn’t necessarily one that’s aggressively marketing your brand. Sometimes, it’s an installation that promotes your organization in a way that’s a little more subtle and just as effective. Permanent installations fit this bill. Their “always-on” messaging invites viewers to engage with your brand on a regular basis, rather than just at an event.
Permanent environments and installations work well at company HQs and in other corporate environments. These are the places where your image and your brand story are crafted. The most successful organizations are often ones that reflect their brand’s image everywhere—not just to the buying public but in the places employees work and where clients, partners, and prospects visit. Corporate locations such as customer lobbies, product demo rooms, and executive briefing centers are prime areas where permanent installations can work well.
Intimate Events Can Be Just as Effective as Large Trade Shows
Trade shows have long been popular for exhibitors—for product launches, brand building, and networking. But now is the time to think outside the box. Small events, outdoor events, virtual events, and permanent environments can all meet your marketing needs just as well, if you approach them in the right way. Be thoughtful about pairing your objectives with the kind of event you hold, and you’ll find that these trade show alternatives can help your organization meet its goals.