What are the perspectives for trade fairs in 2021 with corona lurking.

Where is the crystal ball when you need it? Because there is not really a good answer to how the trade fair industry will get back to live after the pandemic. The vaccine appears to bring the confidence that the industry will need to rise up fast. But how will exhibitors and visitors react when the vaccination program is really running at fast speed.

Of course, the numbers are being investigated. And here are the most recent results from a survey conducted among USA marketeers.


Trade show budget

Marketeers in the USA were asked whether their 2020 trade show budget has been reduced and if so by what percentage. Of those, 68% confirmed this question.

From the 68% marketers surveyed, 30% noted that their budget has been cut by more than 60%. The remaining 38% (of those 68%) noted that their budget was cut to 50%. 32% of the respondents indicated that there are no changes.

From this, you conclude that there are three groups. Those who cut their budget by 60%, those who cut it by 50%  and those that had no cut on their budget at all.


Future perspectives were also measured. What do you expect when the stock markets return? 13% of the respondents expect that their budget will not return to the old level. 18% expect it will, and 66% do not expect a complete recovery of the budget.

They were also asked to frame their quantitatively. Again, you can divide the group into three. A much lower budget, slightly lower and the same. The percentage that has kept the budget the same even expects a budget increase.


Exhibition participation in 2021

They were also was also asked about the number of exhibitions in 2021, in which they would participate. Overall, it was expected that companies will have an average of 40% or fewer exhibitions. Taking into account an expected difficult first half year, this is not too bad.

There is little doubt that companies would like to participate in live events again. Although virtual techniques have made their appearance, and there will certainly be room for them in the future, it appears that many companies are still craving live events.


What is sorely missed by companies is (listed in order of importance).

  • Leads.
  • Increased brand awareness.
  • Networking.
  • Possibility of physical product launches.

Calculated from November, about 50% indicated that they expected to participate in trade fairs after the summer of 2021. The other 50% expect to participate in trade fairs again before the summer.


Virtual trade fair participation and their impact

Virtual trade fairs are the only alternative at the moment. Everyone has been confronted with it, so the question about their experience was asked. It should be noted here that the virtual exhibitions were organized under enormous time pressure and partly because of technical issues, virtual trade fairs were harder to participate in. So it is not surprising that virtual events so far have not had the desired returns compared to live events.

Despite that there are now many very good options for these virtual environments.

More than 70% in the survey indicated that they had incurred slightly less in costs to much less costs for virtual exhibition participation. Almost 90% indicated that they had generated slightly fewer to much fewer leads.



Expectations about visitor numbers and exhibition organizations

When asked how visitors are expected to react if trade fairs are allowed to be held again, almost 90% expect fewer to much fewer visitors. Not surprising in itself, because this is of course also reflected in their own expectations regarding trade fair participation.

On the other hand, these are probably only visitors who are really interested. You can roughly divide visitors into people with a purchase intention, network intention, knowledge intention and call-in function. It is expected that especially the groups from the last 3 categories will ignore trade fairs for a little longer. So there will be fewer visitors, but good quality ones that generate leads.

There are also concerns about the exhibition organizations. Almost 30% are very concerned about whether trade fairs will be held again. 15% are absolutely not concerned and about 55% are concerned about that.

Measures that contribute to a safer feeling at trade fairs

When asked how people would be less concerned about exhibition participation or attendance, the following desirable measures were mentioned:


Mid-term effects

And what are the effects Corona will have in the medium term in any case?

  • Lower available budgets to spend on trade shows
  • Less events.
  • More virtual / hybrid events. A live fair with or without a virtual fair
  • Trade fairs will be kept small (smaller venues).
  • Smaller exhibition stands.
  • Structurally well-ventilated exhibition stands.
  • Different forms of product activation.
  • Change in sponsorship forms.
  • New and permanently separate sanitary facilities.
  • No long keynote sessions.
  • Temperature controls.
  • Lower visitor numbers.
  • Smaller booth crew.
  • Wider aisles.
  • More road shows.
  • More outdoor events.
  • Change to smaller national / regional events.
  • Fewer inter-continental trade fairs.
  • Controlled access of visitors through time slots.


What does this say in the end?

Actually, they are all quite logical consequences of a pandemic. And although the consequences are severe, the majority have retained their optimism and a preference for the return of live trade fairs. Confidence and trust will all have to be rebuilt. But the revival of live events will certainly contribute to a booming economy.

Numbers based upon a survey done by Exhibitor Insight.



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