I think that person-to-person, flesh and blood shows that feature tired feet, over-priced convention center sandwiches, late nights, and blurry mornings are going to be around for some time to come.
Virtual trade shows are boring. They are so boring that it’s easy to forget they are even happening. I don’t think it is because of the digital format. I think it’s because a virtual format does not remotely demand the emotional, financial, and time commitment from those who attend that physical events do.
A physical trade show is more than an event. It is a process that begins long before you walk through security at the convention center and onto the show floor. In fact, the first step, deciding whether to attend, occurs anywhere from two to six months in advance.
When making the decision whether to go, you have to consider the time and energy cost that comes from traveling to another location and staying there for days. You have to consider what opportunity cost may occur while you are gone. And then there is the financial cost. You have to decide whether you are, if an exhibitor, willing to pay for the booth, the electricity, the furniture, and whatever additional costs may occur: The hotel, the airfare, the freight, the dinners out, the lunches and the breakfasts. If you are an attendee, your costs are lower, but you still have to pay for airfare as well as a hotel and food while in attendance.
You have decided to attend. Now you have to plan when to leave and return as well where to stay. Phone calls and emails pass back and forth between exhibitors and attendees, setting appointments and dinner dates.
You have to pack the day before you leave, making decisions on which and how many articles of clothing you will require. Then there is the trip to the airport, the flight delays, the happy arrival, the cab to the hotel, locating your room, unpacking, and, of course, drinking at the bar.
By the time you get to the show, you have committed so much time and money that you are fully invested. In fact, you have invested so much that you will get as much out of the experience as possible.
When attending a virtual show, you never leave your chair, so there is little in the way of anticipation because your time and financial costs have been so low. As a result, your urgency to get the most out of the moment is minimal. In fact, there is so little investment on the part of the attendees that it is easy to forget a virtual show is even happening.
I am sure it will eventually become possible to put on a virtual trade show that demands your attendance but I think it will have to result from a much bigger commitment on the part of he exhibitor or attendee.
Perhaps, with time, people will no longer be willing to put out the energy to go to the real thing. Until then, I think that person-to-person, flesh and blood shows that feature tired feet, over-priced convention center sandwiches, late nights, and blurry mornings are going to be around for some time to come.