On May 19-21, The PSI Show, Europe’s largest promotional products trade show, held its first PSI Digital virtual event. It drew 3,500 attendees, and show organizers report that 20,000 search queries were made in the PSI Product Finder. Company profiles were clicked on more than 10,000 times and video content was viewed live and on-demand more than 6,600 times.

PSI Virtual drew industry professionals from all over the world, including Denmark, Romania, India, the UAE, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and the U.S. About 46 percent of participants consumed 20 hours of live programming, distributed over 41 sessions. Keynotes, lectures, panel discussions and workshops covered the latest in digitalization, law, marketing and social selling, and were presented by 30 experts, either live or digitally in PSI’s studio.

Olaf Hartmann, managing director of the Multisense Institute for Sensory Marketing, was one of PSI Virtual’s speakers. In his keynote speech at the beginning of the event, he explicitly emphasized the importance of haptic advertising—physical objects recipients can touch and feel—in the promotional product mix and encouraged the return to live events: "Our brain was created 150,000 years ago in the structure it has today. That has not changed in the last 15 months. That's why haptic advertising will again make a valuable contribution to the customer journey after the coronavirus, because our brains love haptics and we have a kind of hunger for touch pent up."

During a panel discussion, Alexander Ullmann, managing director of uma Schreibgeräte; Frank Dangmann, chairman of the Gesamtverband der Werbeartikel-Wirtschaft—a trade group representing the promotional products industry in Germany—and Steven Baumgärtner, managing director for marketing and sales at cyber-Wear Heidelberg GmbH, spoke on the current and future role of digitalization and possible hybrid business models of the future. Baumgärtner says, “The fact is, haptic advertising is, as the word suggests, a haptic product. Nevertheless, digitalization is omnipresent and has its right to exist. For all our optimism about the current situation, we will fall back into old patterns. Digitalization promotes efficiency in many areas. You don't have to fly across the world for every product and every team meeting. But especially when it comes to the product that makes up our business, you need the physical togetherness."

Sustainability was also on PSI Virtual’s agenda. Dangmann noted that the topic now plays an important role at 74 percent of industry companies, and the industry is increasingly aligning its production and corporate strategies with ecological, economic and social criteria in mind.

Experts from the inspection, testing and certification company Intertek and Reuschlaw Legal Consultants explained what legal consequences mistakes in product safety can have, what happens in the worst case and what measures must then be taken. They shared that companies do not have to reorganize themselves in order to meet the legal requirements, but can address the issues individually based on their business objectives. The discussion also examined when legal advice makes sense and whether it is always the manufacturer who is liable or whether the retailer can also be held liable.

Caroline Zöller, managing director of Forteam Kommunikation GmbH, explained why storytelling is enormously important for the promotional products industry in her workshop during PSI Virtual. She says, "People want to be entertained these days. They want to learn something new. The stories that are told must have added value. If you succeed in doing that, they also support sales. That's why it's so important not only to tell stories well, but also to tell them in a way that's appropriate for the channel.”

PSI Virtual organizers report a positive response from the event’s exhibitors. Approximately 120 companies from Germany, Austria, Portugal, Poland, Spain, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and U.K. were present. Ullmann, whose companies was an event sponsor, says, “PSI Digital offers a good opportunity to at least stay in digital contact and to exchange views on industry-relevant topics, to inform oneself or to obtain information and knowledge.”

Petra Lassahn, director of PSI, was also more than satisfied with the result of the first digital kick-off: "For all of us, it was a new experience to digitally represent the products and industry topics of the promotional products industry. Even though no digital event can replace the trade show on site, we have managed to offer the industry an event with added value. I am very proud of that."

Barbara Leithner, COO of PSI organizer Reed Exhibitions Austria & Germany, adds, "The team around Petra Lassahn has put together a coherent and strong digital product within a very short time. With this, we have taken another first step towards the future. Because as a trade-show organizer we will also be relying on hybrid concepts in the future, which will help our customers to do more business all year round thanks to additional digital services and wide coverage.”

PSI Digital was just the kick-off of PSI’s online events. Starting in June, every second Friday of the month there will be a Digital Friday with a different focus. The first Digital Friday will be held June 11, focusing on design and product safety. The following Fridays will focus on Christmas, sustainability and the Sustainability Awards, Gusto & Gastro, outdoor, the global industry and textiles. They will lead into the in-person trade show planned to return to Düsseldorf, Germany, on January 11-13, 2022.