Someone already wrote about the digitization of trade shows.

And it was done back in 2017 – before COVID-19 even existed.

That year, Francis J. Friedman – a 25-year veteran of the trade show industry – wrote an e-book that chronicled the reasons why the traditional trade show model was broken, and how it would have to change to keep pace with the digital age.

It’s quite the read in 2020.

In The Modern Digital Tradeshow, Mr. Friedman noted that:

  • Technology had allowed large companies to reach their customers directly via video communication and 24/7 ordering capabilities, meaning that trade shows were no longer the only way to place orders and meet customers,
  • Small companies and start-ups still found benefit in attending shows, but the shows themselves need large exhibitors as key participants, and
  • The trade show industry was going to need high-capacity management systems, skilled content developers, and 24/7 digital systems to compete with marketer-direct competition.

He also said that trade show attendees now include digital natives – people raised on technology and used to the convenience it affords, and added that future shows would need to engage these people in a way that technology could not.

Mr. Friedman’s book describes future trade shows that could engage people physically and virtually; he doesn’t really address the notion of a physical trade show not happening at all (and pre-COVID, why would he). But it’s still a fascinating read. You can download the e-book here.

There’s an interesting bit of timing with this post: just last week we offered up a list of trade shows that had gone virtual. And today we were alerted to the Palais des congres de Montreal’s plan to host ‘hybrid’ trade events – just as soon as they’re able.

As we’ve said before, trade shows are indeed an important way to connect with a new market. The show model did need modernizing – and this pandemic was the catalyst.

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