Large-scale trade shows, like the 2020 Inhorgenta show in Munich, Germany, which was held in February just before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis and attracted 28,000 participants, have largely been shelved this year.
The reasons for their predicament seem self-evident. Shows that pack sometimes tens of thousands of people into indoor exhibition halls, where people are encouraged to mingle and network, are potential super-spreader events, at which not only could be infections brought in from wherever the exhibitors or participants come from, but also could be taken back home by those who attended.
But the global pandemic is not the only reasons that trade show organizers are rethinking the future. Industry uneasiness about the cost of exhibiting, coupled with the development of a technologies that enable the creation of virtual trade show environments, providing companies with alternatives for scouting out new suppliers, clients and product lines, without the expense involved in both exhibiting or simply attending a physical trade show, are changing the rules of the game. These technologies were not developed because of the COVID-19 crisis, but over the past several months industry members, while they were locked down at home, they have become considerably more comfortable in using them.
Few are suggesting that physical trade shows will disappear completely, as the value of events where industry members meet face to face and network will not be discounted completely. But the size and frequency of the shows are likely to change, as will be the show organizers’ growing readiness to incorporate virtual technology into their offerings.
RECREATING LAS VEGAS ON A DIGITAL PLATFORM
In the meantime, trade show organizers are scrambling to provide viable alternatives for shows being held in the midst of a global pandemic. On August 10, the weeklong JCK Virtual is scheduled to open. A new online trade event for the global watch and jewelry industries, attendance is free to qualified jewelry buyers and professionals. Its organizer, the Reed Jewelry Group, says that it is is designed for guests to experience the best of what the JCK Las Vegas and Luxury shows have to offer, but virtually of course.
Like its physical version in Las Vegas, the first day of JCK Virtual will be limited to an invitation-only audience of “Luxury-qualified jewelers,” although it will be open to all registered attendees On August 11, closing on August 14.
Virtual showgoers will have the opportunity to network, make and host appointments, and discover new products through a digital platform. And, while the platform will operate around the clock during the show’s running dates, there will be daily programs hosted from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM New York time. Like Las Vegas, it will include a JCK Talks education program featuring multiple keynotes and four days of expert-led sessions.
Each exhibitor of JCK Virtual 2020 will host its own showroom on the platform, showcasing its products and services and holding in-platform video appointments. While the platform does not offer buyers the option to purchase products directly, it does connect buyers with new and existing vendors and a robust directory that can be filtered by company name, product category, or show neighborhood.
In September the Italian Exhibition Group will try out a hybrid trade show, with some 300 exhibitors displaying goods live at its expo center in Vicenza, while aspects are streamed live via the Internet.
DIGITAL AND HYBRID ALTERNATIVES
Looking to make the move online is Informa Markets, the organizer of the world’s largest world’s largest jewelry trade show, the giant September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair. In August it announced an agreement with Atelier Technology to launch a platform centered on digital product meetings, which it said will endure as a valuable service beyond the pandemic. Its first virtual trade event is scheduled for October 27 to 29, 2020.
“We strongly believe that digital will enrich our physical exhibitions and empower both exhibitors and buyers to have more efficient meetings,” said David Bondi, senior vice president, Informa Markets in Asia. “For our partners, clients and loyal visitors, fusing the digital world with physical shows will open up vast opportunities for business growth, most especially in times of change like these.”
The Italian Exhibition Group (IEG), organizer of the VICENZAORO shows is taking a bolder approach, planning a physical show at its exhibition grounds in Vicenza, but with a strong digital element thrown in. The three-day event will start on September 12.
Called Voice-VICENZAORO, the show will be a scaled back version of its usual September show, with about 300 companies exhibiting in uniform booths. The events is being designed to strictly conform with the new health health standards.
Voice-VICENZAORO will take place in a hybrid live and virtual format, with its content being disseminated on digital channels in Italy and worldwide, promote maximum exposure for its exhibitors. IEG’s partner it creating the new format is Alkemy, a leading Italian digital transformation company.