Recap Marketing and Tradeshows Roundtable – What is the “New Normal”?

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On Thursday, Oct. 8, BEMA gathered marketing and sales members to talk about the challenges and opportunities of marketing in a post-COVID-19 world. Co-moderators Teresa Ruder of Middleby Bakery Group, and CJ McClellan of Corbion led the roundtable.

The virtual program kicked off with a question that’s on the minds of many. Who will be participating in a tradeshow in Q1 or Q2 of 2021? The answer received was resoundingly positive with 78% planning to participate in an in-person tradeshow in the near future. That timing couldn’t be better for those looking to attend interpack at its rescheduled February 2021 date.

With budgets for tradeshows still available, many are currently taking advantage of a growing number of virtual shows, although with mixed results. The overwhelming consensus being largely underwhelming. Understanding the last-minute nature of many of these events, the virtual options have largely been a learning experience for organizers and attendees alike. For those virtually exhibiting, the need to retro-fit marketing materials to a variety of formats continues to be a time-consuming endeavor across the board.

Those on the call shared that some of the best virtual experiences allow for one-on one connections and the ability to message the attendees during the virtual breaks or to set up meetings at a separate time. Jon Miller commented that the virtual conferences are improving with the better ones offering a list of attendees and the ability to filter to find those who might be a good fit for your product or company. One large detractor being interaction through the chat feature, which produces a distinctly different, and less desirable, interaction than meeting someone in-person at a booth or on the floor.

With many finding the virtual options lacking, the group asked what others are doing to improve virtual interactions. For some, shifts in resources and transition of dollar spends are finding marketers exploring new media such as 3-D modeling and making greater investments in video and animation. Marketers are also discovering short snippets to be more desirable as everyone competes for attention against a variety of other virtual media and in-home/in-office distractions. But all agree, virtual communication cannot replace in-person interactions.

Beyond exploring new technologies, the marketers shared that their workplaces are also changing with more people enjoying work-from-home opportunities than ever before. Many expressed hope that there would be continuing flexibility to work at both home and in the office in the future.

The importance of finding new ways to do things was driven home by special guest, Ryan Klemm, senior business development manager at Messe Dusseldorf North America, Chicago. Klemm shared that the organization, one of the world’s leading tradeshow management companies, recently celebrated its first post-pandemic show. With more than 100,000 visitors in attendance, the show exceeded the expectations of its planners and will become a template for future tradeshows such as interpack.

“This set the standard and showed we can do tradeshows in a safe and effective way,” he said. “We learned the demand is still there to hold tradeshows in person.”

Interpack participants can expect robust hygienic standards, limited entrance passes to accommodate social distancing rules (1.5 meters/5.5 feet apart) and monitoring of floor traffic to keep attendees spread out and safe during the event. Recognizing the economic importance of tradeshows to the country, the German government is working to set the standard for producing tradeshows in a safe and effective manner.

When asked about a possible reduction in the size of interpack, Klemm responded by saying with the exception of a couple of cancellations from the U.S., the show is holding steady. He suggested companies look at their floor plans to determine if there’s a need to downsize to achieve distancing standards at the show.

Klemm also predicted marketers can expect a continuing online presence at shows, including the addition of streaming video services and other enhancements to boost interactions before, during and after the show. Kerwin Brown concluded the roundtable by commenting Klemm’s announcements are a prediction things to come with China and Germany ahead of the changes that will soon to be seen in the U.S.

The next Marketing and Tradeshow roundtable is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 14.

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