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The Case For Trade Shows In An Increasingly ‘Virtual’ World

Trade shows are becoming something of a dying breed these days. They offer a venue for buyers and sellers, potential partners and industry leaders to meet and interact face-to-face. This is something that is increasingly rare in a society where the internet and ‘virtualization’ of just about everything is becoming more and more ubiquitous. That’s why trade shows, particularly expos that provide more than just floor space for exhibiting, but also conferences, seminars and classes are more important than ever before.

Think about it. So much of what we do is done online or ‘at a distance’, whereas before we use to do everything in person and face-to-face. We now shop online more than we shop in a store. Our social lives are at least 50% lived online. Business networking which used to be done primarily in meeting rooms, coffee shops and bars is now done on LinkedIn. Even our ‘meetings’ are increasingly virtual, with technologies like GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts and other commercial video conferencing technologies.

Although this technology allows for us to increase our reach and also to maximize our bottom line (attending a meeting in Japan virtually is much cheaper than flying there and shacking up in a 4-star hotel), there is unquestionably something lost when we do all of these things virtually. Anybody who has ever been video-conferenced into a meeting can tell you that they are only half-there, like some apparition which communicates from another realm. People who are virtually attending a class or a meeting realize that the screen is like a forcefield that allows them to be only partially engaged. How many of us are actually, working on a report or responding to email when we are videoconferenced into a meeting?

That’s why trade shows and expos provide such an important venue for networking and reaching customers. You can have your commercials playing incessantly over the airwaves, on TV and radio, and your ads plastered all over the web, but nothing will ever replace a member of your trade show staff walking up to a visitor examining one of your products at your trade show booths, looking them right in the eye and saying: “Let me show you how that works.”

The degree of engagement that is possible when interacting face-to-face is a hundred times more than anything you will get from a screen. Talking with someone face-to-face and seeing something real and physical in front of you demands your full attention. Speaking with another person requires that you are fully present and engaged. That’s why expos and trade shows will not be going away anytime soon. There simply is no substitute for the genuine and visceral experience that they provide.

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