B2B Exhibition Organizers Explore Hybrid, Virtual Options Amidst COVID-19 Uncertainty

COVID-19 is raising uncertainty among U.S. business-to-business exhibitions organizers and pushing the industry toward virtual and hybrid events. This data comes from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research’s (CEIR) latest poll tracking the impact COVID-19 is having on the U.S. B2B exhibition industry.

“The persistence of COVID-19 and the uncertainty of whether events can take place in their scheduled destinations are forcing an increasing number of U.S. B2B exhibition organizers to either postpone their events to late 2020/early 2021 or cancel them entirely,” says CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEM. “This trend is devasting to an industry that contributed over $101 billion to the U.S. GDP last year. CEIR provides valuable impact information to both Exhibitions Mean Business and the Go LIVE Together initiatives for use in advocating for the industry to Congress.”

CEIR Vice President of Research Nancy Drapeau, PRC, adds, “The top two reasons speak to the chaos of the current situation, as 74 percent of those forced to cancel say the lack of clarity in knowing whether large group meetings will be allowed to take place at the scheduled time due to state and local lockdown orders prompted them to this decision. International Manufacturing Technology Show, scheduled to take place in Chicago, is a prime example. In addition, many organizers (69 percent) attribute the persistence of corporate ‘no-travel’ policies and the impact they might have on participation levels as a reason for foregoing a 2020 in-person event.”

Exhibition organizers are doing all that they can to defend the health of their organizations and serve the needs of their communities in the midst of this crisis. CEIR’s June survey asked organizers that have postponed an event whether they have added a hybrid or virtual component to these events. Responses reflect that 63 percent have, with 44 percent giving attendees the option to attend in-person or virtually and the same percentage (44 percent) having a virtual event backup plan in case they are forced to cancel at the last minute.

Among organizers forced to cancel 2020 events, the shift to digital has grown to 81 percent, compared to 69 percent in the April survey. CEIR also points out the increase in full virtual trade shows, which grew to 41 percent compared to 15 percent in the April survey.

Click here for a webinar on the full survey results.

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