Trade events and exhibitions are making a comeback as anyone eagerly anticipating ISE in Barcelona in a few weeks’ time and Infocomm in Las Vegas in June will testify.
Of course there will be concerns about safety. This is never far from the minds of exhibitors and visitors and has been a preoccupation of organisers repeatedly forced to delay events over the last two years.
But after all the waiting, even these concerns won’t squash our enthusiasm for the kind of interaction that cannot be provided by any other activity, and certainly not through screens – face-to-face meetings.
Our industry, like many others, turns on its ability to display innovation and demonstrate solutions on a grand stage. Exhibitions facilitate this, but they also offer time for inter-personal questions, discussions, revelations and decisions.
It might be that as we start to interact again, we find people are not in the same positions they were two years ago. Many have moved or left the industry altogether. Indeed some companies too will be in an entirely different place, and their goals may have shifted.
Being at ISE, in a new venue and a new city, will require more than a little adjustment. As well as reinforcing old connections and catching up, there will be unforeseen opportunities to make the most of and quite possibly caution where previously it just didn’t exist.
These are the new post-pandemic hurdles that will have to be climbed as we and everyone else exhibiting at ISE determines whether they need to adopt new strategies or whether they are still moving down the right track.
By being forced apart from each other, it will undoubtedly be the human element of returning to exhibitions that is most rewarding: the ease with which we will communicate with visitors on our stands benefiting from a wealth of non-verbal cues; the time and space for informal, but often valuable, small talk; the interesting insights from a quick drink with an old colleague at the bar and the myriad opportunities to demonstrate exactly the solution that a visitor is looking for.
We are social animals after all, and exhibitions like ISE and Infocomm are so much more than just forums for information or static displays. Since networking lies at the heart of successful events and makes them worth all the effort, and the expense, it is perhaps no surprise that just this week we have heard that customers from India are planning to travel to Barcelona, and customers from Australia are making the trip to Las Vegas. This year in particular, being involved carries with it an extra special frisson of excitement and anticipation.