Industry trade shows such as IBTM World and The Meetings Show will have to work especially hard to engage event professionals with stand-out content and creative formats this autumn as virtual fatigue begins to set in.
Following last week’s news that IBTM World due to take place in Barcelona in December, International Luxury Travel Market due to take place in Cannes in December, and The Meetings Show and World Travel Market, both due to take place in London in October and November respectively, are all going to be pure virtual events, we canvassed industry opinion via a LinkedIn survey.
Asked how they are feeling about virtual, only 11% of the 100-plus respondents are still keen to take part, more than a third (38%) said they are a bit bored now, and 50% said it depends on content.
Absolute Corporate Events Owner & Client Strategies Director Chris Parnham said: “It’s disappointing but of course understandable to see these events switch to virtual. It is becoming much harder to attract delegates to virtual events, so organisers need to ensure content is robust and agendas are flexible to our new virtual demands, as these have developed over the last few months. We no longer give our time freely for virtual events, we need to see purpose, quality and some ROI for our time.”
OrangeDoor Managing Director Dina Green added that while content has always been important with face-to-face events, it’s even more so now we’re mostly communicating in the virtual world. “You can’t just take a trade show and dump it online. From a content perspective, you need to think of it more as a TV show than a theatre show, as you can’t engage with the audience as easily. People are unlikely to take a whole day out of their schedule to take part in a virtual trade show in the same way they would a physical one, so you need to make sure people can easily pick and choose content and an agenda that fits around their other commitments.”
The Meetings Show Event Director Jack Marczewski said that the team had worked tirelessly to find an intuitive digital platform with enhanced capabilities. “Operating virtually means we can run sessions delivered by a stellar line-up of speakers from around the globe not just in the UK, such as our headliner Andy King of Fyre Festival. King will ignite our education programme, which includes sessions in areas such as career development, sustainability and event technology that will be delivered both live and on-demand, with many offering the chance to pose questions and interact.
“There are also other elements that will improve the event experience further and we will be announcing these in the forthcoming weeks. We are aware that many events have switched to virtual through the Covid-19 pandemic and that there may be some ‘virtual fatigue’, but The Meetings Show will not be just another virtual event. This will be an event experience that just happens to be virtual.”
Top Banana Commercial Director Jemma Peers said that while it is disappointing for our industry to be set back again and to see these great events turn virtual, we need to accept and embrace virtual as it can deliver great results.
“What is more disappointing is the inability to showcase how events like these can be run safely and effectively with the health and safety measures in place. We are confident as an industry on how to run events and events like these would have been great examples to prove it is possible to these safely and under guidelines,: she continued.
“Personally I am craving face to face networking and interaction, that emotional connection you only get when face to face, however I have enjoyed how far the industry has advanced in its technology and virtual offering and how its pushed people to think differently again. I have enjoyed seeing people operating in new and different ways and delivering some exceptional results. Virtual is here to stay, embrace it, enjoy it and keep thinking of new and innovative ideas for when we can all be back together!”
Eventful Managing Director Caroline Lumgair agreed: “The world is a huge state of flux and we need to be flexible as we constantly adapt our businesses at this time. I applaud the decisions that have been taken to hold these shows virtually as it is the best outcome considering the risk involved.
“We are all desperate to meet face to face, however we need to be responsible and with great strategy and technology, virtual events can be a brilliant tool for communicating and networking. The engagement results we’ve seen from the virtual events we are creating for clients are truly impressive.”