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Exhibitors Really Don’t Like Virtual Trade Shows

A new survey digs into some of the biggest challenges for online exhibitions.

Trade-show organizers are working hard to keep exhibitors happy during the coronavirus pandemic—but virtual trade shows largely are missing the mark, according to a new report from Tradeshow Logic.

An August survey from the event-solutions company reveals that a lot of exhibitors are unsatisfied with the level of engagement with customers and prospects these events provide—in fact, 43 percent of exhibitors who have participated in a virtual trade show say they won’t do so again. But the survey also provides much for organizers to consider as they work to improve the exhibitor experience.

The survey, which received responses from 343 individuals at companies that exhibit at or sponsor events, asked for feedback in two key areas: first, what exhibitors thought of the engagement opportunities/activations provided by the virtual event platform; and second, their takeaways or ROI from the experience.

In terms of the engagement/activations, here’s the good news: Education and thought-leadership opportunities for exhibitors in the virtual environment met or exceeded expectations for 62 percent of survey respondents. Unfortunately, that’s the only element that got a passing grade. Respondents’ satisfaction with their options for branding, promoting new products, and networking has a long way to go: Chart1.png

As for return on investment from virtual events, exhibitors aren’t thrilled. The only ROI to which more than 10 percent of the respondents selected “definitely met outcome” was “acquire participant data.” That may not be a surprise, as virtual-meeting attendance numbers have been especially strong through the pandemic. For many, however, it seems that high attendance didn’t translate into gaining leads and increasing sales:chart2.jpg

The survey identified four key challenges for exhibitors as they’ve transitioned from carpet and drape to clicks and pixels:
• Not enough time to prepare content
• The burden of learning multiple virtual-event platform technologies
• Lack of participation inside the virtual exhibit hall and minimal engagement with attendees
• The need to find new ways to convey the value of their products or services in order to connect with prospects

“We’re going to need to service exhibitors online for a while,” says Michele Weston Rowe, vice president marketing and communications at Tradeshow Logic. The results of the survey are “really an opportunity. Let’s figure it out.”

The full survey report can be downloaded here.


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