Industry’s New Reality
COVID-19 Accelerates Change in an Already Shifting Show Scene
The traditional tradeshow circuit, a dependable industry cycle of events scheduled years in advance, is getting a do-over. As spring gives way to summer the business conference format continues to evolve, leaving textile execs to wonder what’s to come in the remainder of 2020. Yet there is one sure thing in this time of uncertainty: remote participation and the rise of digital tech will define the trade show experience going forward, even when doors swing open to face-to-face conferences.
“Virtual robustness is here to stay and will grow,” commented Kristin Hostetter, a panelist on a recent webinar discussion about navigating virtual trade shows. “We will get back together, but lets not forget what we learned during this time.”
Businesses are coming to the same conclusion that investment in technology and new types of interactive presentations happening now should be a launching pad going forward, not brushed aside as a one-off pandemic necessity. Digital has been dappled with for years as a trade show tool, however the upheaval wrought by the COVID-19 crisis has sped up innovation in how business communities connect.
Organizers make a good case for going virtual. Oft cited benefits include lower cost, greater convenience, sustainability achieved by removing travel and waste, and easy access to entry resulting a more level trade show playing field.
“I’m a believer in the power of face-to-face in a physical environment, but I also recognize that trade shows had become less transactual and more about experience,” commented webinar panelist Kenji Haroutunian, an outdoor industry veteran involved with the Big Gear Show launch, now planned for August 2021.
Small Shows Find New Formats
Munich’s Performance Days, IFAI’s Smart Fabric Summit and Kingpins Amsterdam trade events needed to get out of the gates quickly with digital upgrades in order to hold originally scheduled April 2020 events. All three serve a particular sector of the textile industry — a factor that proved helpful in supplying targeted information online.
Renamed Kingpins24, the new online version of the denim fair, was especially successful in retaining the show’s casual quirky business vibe. The livestreamed two-day program did a good job replicating a typical show atmosphere with an event schedule that blended trend talks, exhibitor videos and promos, panel discussion, music, and one-on-one conversations between show founder Andrew Olah and his friends.
The cancellation of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2020 left a void that newcomer Thin Air is eager to fill. Thin Air is generating buzz for its futuristic platform and forward-thinking outlook. Organizers have extended its original exclusive focus on brands and media and recently opened the show to retailer and buyer attendance resulting in an industry-wide affair.
“Thin Air is re-creating a trade show experience. It is more like a video game setting. Avatars that will be walking the halls and interacting with attendees. But there will be keynotes, private meetings and booths,” explained Jenna Celmer, a communications specialist for digital, who is working on the launch of Thin Air.
Organizers are also encouraging a wider assortment of show goers, including bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers, podcasters, journalists and other content creators. The Thin Air show experience should be especially appealing to start-ups and young brands as well as an audience intrigued by how virtual tech can bring to the industry together.
Celmer was upfront about costs to exhibit. She stated, “$1500 gets you a seat at the table with a standard booth; $5000 is the fee for a premium upscale booth; and $25,000 buys an entire hall.” Event exhibitors get two avatars or a robo chat option.
As the industry explores this new virtual trade show landscape, whether that’s with avatars or humans, or hybrid models built on a combination digital and in-person platform, companies will determine what is the best fit for their product lines and growth strategies, which is pretty much how its always been. New, however, is the ability to attend a trade show from the comfort of one’s home or office.
Trade Show Calendar
Kingpins24, NY: June 23-24
Thin Air: June 23-24
Texworld USA / Apparel Sourcing USA: July 21-23
Techtextil North America 2020 Atlanta: October 1-3
Performance Days, Munich: October 28-29
IFAI Expo, Indianapolis: November 3-5
Functional Fabric Fair, Portland, OR: November 18-19