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02.11.22 - Marketing

The Conference is Canceled. Now What?

Image of theatre style seating all empty
Your Event & Conference Playbook for the Digital Age

The classic in-person business gatherings will never be the same.

Trade shows, conferences, and even showrooms have transformed since Covid-19 prevented us from regularly gathering in person. Many of these gatherings are taking on a hybrid approach that includes both physical and digital components, while others have been canceled altogether. Even the ones that remain in-person aren’t so traditional.

gif of Bill Nye the Science Guy saying "This changes everything"

When you’re preparing to board a flight and your event gets canceled, you can’t just throw up your hands in frustration. So, how do you prepare for this “new normal?” How do you allocate your budget? You can’t let all your hard work and investment go to waste.

Regardless of the scenario—fully in-person, fully digital, or hybrid—it’s important to have a clear strategy for conventions and trade shows in this new era. We have a few tips to follow.

Lead with Digital

Even after the pandemic fades, online events are expected to command a majority of trade show budgets, according to FTI Consulting. Plus, by leading with a digital strategy, you give yourself the flexibility to adapt when something out of your control changes.

FUN FACT: Nearly 70% of respondents attended a virtual event in the past year and 62% say they were more satisfied with the experience.

Embrace Omnichannel

We’re not suggesting you totally abandon in-person events. Rather, you should always be thinking about how your physical and digital presence align.

The B2B trade show market in the U.S. declined to $5.6 billion in 2020 amid the pandemic but is expected to rebound to $14.5 billion by 2024, according to Statista.

We’ve helped create key digital touchpoints for clients who have been unable to connect with their customers in person during the pandemic.

In one instance, Purina needed to transform a physical showroom experience into a digital one. Alongside WD Partners, we developed an interactive, engaging tool to directly connect with customers. Check it out here!

Another successful case study is GAF, the leading roofing manufacturer in North America.

They attended the 2022 International Roofing Expo in New Orleans while Covid-19 was very much still a thing. No one knew if the event would actually take place in person. So, to prepare for that unpredictability, we created a digital-first strategy that gave GAF flexibility with their content to pivot if needed.

Image of GAF trade show set-up

Plus, their in-person plans seamlessly incorporated digital flourishes. We armed GAF with four custom-developed touchscreens for the expo. Visitors were able to interact with physical materials while seamlessly browsing video content and sell sheets—allowing them to conveniently understand the latest roofing innovations.

Both of these are good examples of how organizations can adapt to today’s environment and meet their customers wherever they are.

Be Proactive

Let’s be honest, you’re probably happy to be spared from some of the in-person obligations of pre-Covid times. Maybe it’s a breath of fresh air not to attend whatever is your version of the regional paper convention.

Gif from "The Office." Pam saying "That's all we brought" and holding up a single sheet of paper

The good news is that all the reasons we went to conventions in the first place—to forge new relationships, generate new business, connect with existing contacts, plan for the future—can be replicated in the digital realm or with a hybrid model.

The bottom line is this: It’s possible to not only maintain but actually improve your event-based marketing in today’s environment.

We’ll leave you with some actionable takeaways so you can start maximizing your events today: Download our new PDF detailing the digital-first events strategy.