Covid and virtual events of tomorrow

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To face the current health crisis, the event sector had to reinvent itself. While some events were simply cancelled, others tried to recreate the experience... but otherwise.
So, is it a success?
Cancelled event of 2020 Covid
Cancelled event of 2020 Covid

2020 trade shows

Cynaptek experienced two cancelation cases in 2020.
The first was the complete cancelation of IAMAG in Paris, a superb exhibition (almost right next to us, moreover) bringing together major creative actors, especially in the world of cinema and video games.
This is the kind of event that broadens your horizons and boosts your creativity. You meet a lot of people from the community with completely different backgrounds, you take part in the after by joining the useful to the pleasant, which allows you to discuss with the different speakers of the day in a relaxed way ... Anyway, this great event is cancelled three days before it's launch... a shocking blow for the organizers who were forced to stop everything at the last minute!

The rest, we know it. Trade fairs, exhibitions, musical and cultural events of all kinds are forced to cancel their 2020 edition. Then, in the first weeks following these cascading cancellations, trying to limit the damage, some reinvented themselves by creating digital editions.

A few months later, we're doing our first post-Covid trade show trial with the Medica Trade Fair, a renowned event from the medical sector in Düsseldorf. The event tried to convert to digital and it was a disappointment for us, but we will come back to it later.
Was it better before?
Was it better before?

Was it better before?

In order to understand why virtual B2B events do not meet the expected craze, it is necessary to understand the reasons for their operation in a physical context.
When you want to expand your network, establish contacts, exchange experiences, meet a wide range of profiles, sign new contracts, and more, the trade shows offer great opportunities.
You meet interesting people, more spontaneous than usual (even if you sometimes organize meetings there), you find old acquaintance, you go to conferences... This set of elements allows you to participate in rewarding discussions at all levels and, moreover, you have the opportunity to explain your work in detail to the interested parties as well as the added value you can bring to them.

Before going further, here is the classic frame of an event (such as a trade show), in order to better understand the difference of experience between "before" and "after" 2020:
The booths
The booths
  • 1. The booth
The famous booth that allows us to be visible. Ahhh visibility…!
The booth is the perfect meeting place. If you are well positioned (but who said near the bar?), the passage is constant, allowing you to expose your project to those interested and curious. In a very short time, your visibility is increased.
The conferences
The conferences
  • 2. The conferences
Often very rewarding (as I have already said), they allow the exchange of many ideas, the creation of moments of dialog, information, debate, the creation of links through the exchange of experiences, etc. We also often meet inspiring people, references in the field. In an exhibition, the contact is more direct and unfiltered.
The meetings
The meetings
  • 3. The meetings
They happen throughout the event and are clearly opportunities. This is the primary reason for any participation.

The reality of today's virtual events 

Being forced to reinvent themselves in the face of and following the health crisis, the main events have all (or almost all) migrated to a digital edition. But is it a success?
Virtual events
Virtual events
The results of an event such as the  CES® (Consumer Electronics Show) speak for themselves. By effectively comparing the January 2021 digital edition figures with those of 2020, we observe a 50% drop in attendance and a more or less 20% drop in media coverage . And the announcements of the major electronics brands didn't change that much. So the challenge is real!
This world-renowned exhibition at the heart of new technologies, which takes place ten months after the beginning of the pandemic and whose cancellation of the classic version is not really a big surprise, has been content with this digital version... without real innovation.

As mentioned above, Cynaptek had the opportunity to participate in the Medica digital trade fair and this was not a success for us. So here are the personal lessons we learned:

By getting the usual structure of an exhibition, our findings are summarized as follows:
The booth, web search...
The booth, web search...
  • 1. The booth
This one became a simple web page. What is its visibility, consequently? It's like subscribing to a directory. Next, it depends on how easy users will be able to find your web page; if they have a precise idea of what they are looking for, they may find you, but if they do not, the chances of meeting here are practically nil because no one will go around all the companies listed on the different web pages. There is just too much. The customization options of these pages are very often limited, which is the opposite of what was possible previously.
The web conferences
The web conferences
  • 2. The conferences
Converted into video talk, you can always find inspiration and knowledge sharing. This is the least impacted element compared to the live version but the whole communication strategy needs to be rethought. Indeed, without a direct public, the exchange is more complicated and the solutions brought by the video are not always sufficient.

The questions/answers at the end of the session are planned by chat and depending on the number of participants you can again be completely lost in the mass. As with the live version.
The web meetings
The web meetings
  • 3. The meetings
This is the central element of an exhibition. Unfortunately, digital events do not meet the usual expectations at this level. Appointments can still be planned and chats are sometimes set up during talks. But you have no representation or spontaneity here. Random encounters no longer exist, while chance plays an essential role in the meetings to create a link. Such a meeting can upset your professional relationship, which might not have happened otherwise. And this doesn't happen often enough at digital exhibitions.

Let us not forget the body language (or the non-verbal language) which has become the great absentee of these virtual meetings. It is another way to let people know but also convey who we are (and who the others are), what we think, what we expect… without even having to speak and only through our gestures, looks, postures, etc.
Of course, as we can see, a slight conversion is taking place but the drive to find innovations to reinvent events is almost nil.
The organizers are legitimately experimenting with making it a happening but their website does not meet this expectation at all. When a video is broadcast, whether for a live conference or an announcement, a "T" moment appears anyway. However, the announcement effect is not the same at all as with a public that reacts with words and gives it the long-awaited importance: to regain the pleasure of communication by interacting and asking questions, whether to the facilitator or the speaker.


In the next article, we will discuss the different solutions to be brought in virtual exhibitions in order to find the human back.
Covid and virtual events of tomorrow

One note about the author

Owner & Project Director at Cynaptek, 3D Generalist TD

Passionate about medias such as video games, movies, tv shows and of course new technologies, space, discovery, voyages...

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Cartoon animation offers a medium of storytelling and visual entertainment which can bring pleasure and information to people of all ages everywhere in the world.

Walt Disney

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