Will Manufacturing Trade Shows Make a Return in 2021?
Of all the industries to take a hit in 2020, few suffered worse than the trade show circuit. In-person events were virtually non-existent last year, including manufacturing trade shows. Major events like the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) and FABTECH International moved their events online, while others cancelled altogether. Now, as we near the end of the pandemic, industry professionals have begun to wonder if any of these important events will make a return in 2021.
The struggle to return to in-person events persists
As the availability of coronavirus vaccines increases, there’s hope that in-person trade shows will return — and with a normal volume of presenters and attendees. There’s a case for this optimism thanks to one of Europe’s largest consumer electronics events, IFA Berlin. The event, which attracts 1,800 exhibitors and 250,000 guests, sets the tone for trade shows across every industry.
IFA Berlin was an in-person event last year, but with heavy restrictions in place. Some of these restrictions may linger at this year’s event, but the current intention is to return to full-scale operations again, according to organizers.
As other major trade shows take cues from IFA Berlin, it ultimately remains up to organizers, sponsors, and presenters to attempt a return to normalcy or to forgo a full-scale event for another year. While it’s hard to predict whether these events will return to normal in 2021, manufacturers especially are hopeful, as these events represented a massive hole in the 2020 itinerary for many producers.
Manufacturing relies on trade shows
Trade shows offer manufacturers a chance to explore new technologies and cutting-edge solutions. In an industry marked by an explosion of innovation, thanks to Industry 4.0, the absence of trade shows has put many capital projects on hold — including Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) buildouts and investments in new equipment. For purveyors of these products and technologies, the lack of events has been equally devastating.
While virtual trade shows have grown in popularity, there’s simply no way to do justice to in-person interactions and demonstrations. Product videos and spec sheets aren’t a replacement for live demos. Moreover, it’s difficult for presenters to properly capture the interest of attendees when they’re separated by a computer screen.
If trade shows return, will attendees?
While several large events will occur in 2021, the willingness of people to attend likely won’t be what some companies are hoping for. Event crowds could be a deterrent for many who aren’t vaccinated by the time certain trade shows roll around. There are also liability concerns for event organizers. On top of all this, many companies haven’t allocated a budget for trade shows in 2021, making presenting or attending less of a priority.
Those invested in a return to trade shows in 2021 are hoping safety concerns won’t deter too many attendees. There are over 200 in-person trade shows planned in North America alone this year, including the Southern California Facilities Expo, World of Wipes (WOW) International Conference, Graphics Pro Expo, and many more.
An eye on 2022 for a full return to normalcy
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that it’s hard to predict how things will turn out. There’s the possibility that trade shows will go back to normal in 2021; however, those hoping for complete normalcy may have to wait at least another year. Targeting 2022 will give people more time to prepare for trade shows. And by this time, attendees will be two years removed from the pandemic and more comfortable with attending larger events.