Coronavirus and the Future of Trade Shows

It is the excitement that arises when a major buyer unexpectedly walks into your booth.


The Coronavirus is speeding up trends that would have taken years to occur. One such tendency is the move to virtual meetings as a replacement for physical, in-person get-togethers. The perceived risk, caused by Coronavirus, of gathering in large groups has made video conferencing an attractive and cost-effective alternative.

That evolution makes sense in terms of day to day business. It certainly makes seems rational from a cost of business standpoint, not to mention the bodily wear and tear that comes from modern travel.  But what about trade shows. How will they be affected? Are they going to become extinct, replaced by virtual fairs and expos?

I don’t think so, at least not in the long term. Trade shows are different from business meetings. Business meetings are controlled events, typically with an agenda and a fixed time frame. Trade shows, however,  are chaotic, and that is a big part of their attraction.

Crowds of people are exciting. They lift our spirits and make us feel that we are in the right place. They also lend themselves to the serendipitous moment. That chance meeting that occurs while we wait in line to check a coat, buy a cup coffee, or hail a cab. It is the excitement that arises when a major buyer unexpectedly walks into your booth and wants to see your products. It is the impromptu meeting that takes place when you find yourself standing next to a CEO you have never been able to reach.

It is these moments of random chance that make trade shows so challenging to replicate online. That’s why I think that trade shows are here to stay. Yes, attendance may well be down in the coming year. For the long haul, however, I think they are irreplaceable.

What do you think?

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