Pre-2020, industry trade shows played a significant role in lead generation for tech companies. But, when trade shows went virtual in response to COVID-19, both marketers and buyers adapted. In fact, ARPR’s 2021 data report revealed that with in-person trade shows canceled and travel budgets frozen, COVID-19 moved IT buying cycles into purely digital ones, which fueled them to be faster (and more cost effective).
To the chagrin of the trade show industry, throughout 2020 and 2021 tech companies realized they didn’t need expo halls to generate demand. So, in response, conferences are resuming in 2022, but with the addition of virtual options.
For example, CES 2022 offered a hybrid model and on-site attendance was 77% lower than previous years. The vast majority of attendees and media participated virtually, including some of its biggest sponsors. LG even had a virtual event on the expo floor, with none of its products actually present.
At ARPR, the majority of our IT clients are declining to participate in trade shows that they used to view as critical pre-COVID. Others are just sending a sales rep. For those who still have a trade show calendar, the majority of their participation will be virtual.
Here are the Top 3 reasons why tech marketing and sales teams can save resources and still achieve ROI with virtual shows:
- If customer relationship building and lead gen are your goals, consider how your buyer’s journey has changed over the last two years and whether meeting in-person at a trade show is still relevant. Chances are, it’s not. In fact, recent data by FTI Consulting revealed that 60% of attendees of virtual events were more satisfied with those experiences than in-person events.
- Virtual trade shows outperformed in-person events last year as it relates to building brand awareness and thought leadership. According to FTI Consulting, 62% of executives indicated virtual events met or exceeded their brand awareness expectations.
- According to Muck Rack, 46% of tech journalists plan on covering more in-person events in 2022. However, nearly half of journalists said they also plan to cover virtual events, and 38% of tech journalists even prefer attending virtually.
As Chris Morris at Fortune put it, “A company with a really unique idea or product doesn’t necessarily need the fawning crowds’ oohing and aahing to get the exposure it’s seeking.”
There is an undeniable energy about an in-person event that can’t be replicated – but as with most changes that occurred over the last two years, in-person trade shows will never go back to pre-2020 levels. The tide has already turned. Virtual events are currently estimated to hold 55% of the overall trade show budget post-pandemic and growing.
Need support navigating virtual events? Click here to read how we helped a HealthIT client, Updox, achieve strong visibility and engagement at MGMA’s annual Medical Practice Excellence Conference – ultimately generating over 500 new leads during its first virtual trade show.