In the context of more current times, the ensuing pandemic has had a deeply adverse impact on the exhibitions industry with more than 1700 shows having been cancelled in India in 2020 alone. The other side of the coin would no doubt be the great resolve, innovations, and improvisations it has revealed to transform the situation. Human endeavour was intensely aided at every step came by leveraging the power of technology, with the industry having already started encouraging its increased use from pre-Covid times. The pandemic, though, no doubt, acted as a catalyst with many events being converted to digital platforms showcasing virtual reality booths.
Partnership all the way
The exhibition industry banks on manpower and face-to-face interaction and is currently in the re-building phase. However, exhibitions organisers use technology as a strategy in the entire process, be it in terms of engaging with stakeholders for their critical business needs through digital mediums, in terms of leveraging marketing technology to understand the changing needs of the professionals with real time data, and also as and when physical shows take place. Going forward too, synergies between exhibitions and technology is now essential. Think anything from health and safety measures, to disruptions that enthral the stakeholders.
The advent of hybrid shows
The new normal witnessed the advent of virtual and hybrid events that offer flexibility and can be customised to suit the diverse needs of consumers. Other benefits include cost-effectiveness, data to glean customer insights, and course correction in real time. Conferences/lounge/Professional matchmaking B2B meetings can be created on virtual platforms for better engagement with visitors. Quality leads too can be generated in a short time and the reach is beyond boundaries.
Technologies like augmented reality, beacon technology, software apps and virtual reality bring a fresh perspective and provide audiences with an immersive and dynamic experience. Besides, they also gather data before and during the event to attract targeted customers and qualified leads and enable analysis of their behaviour and expectations. These help in calculating ROI, and truly measuring the event’s success. In future editions too, furthering customer satisfaction can be achieved by bridging current gaps. The opportunities and possibilities are exciting, and I believe we have just seen the tip of the iceberg.
Back to ‘real’ business
The return of physical events will understandably have to factor the health and safety concerns of audiences, employees, and all other stakeholders. Growth and recovery can be fully harnessed only when participants are confident about the ambience and indulge in word of mouth recommendations as well in a closely knit community.
It is inevitable that the exhibitions industry has to work in tandem with other industries such as travel to ensure end to end safe and invaluable experience for its customers. Here too, technology can address requirements such as contactless travel, immunity passports, airlines and hotels adopting more contactless methods of operating, etc. An expedited immunisation program, efficient health infrastructure and optimal and technologically compliant venues would greatly help in the situation.
At the exhibition venue, digitally enabled safety paradigms will secure the confidence of participants. A prime example is Informa’s AllSecure health and safety standards. As the world’s leading event’s organiser, Informa has developed a detailed set of enhanced measures to provide the highest levels of hygiene and safety at its events, providing everyone with reassurance and confidence they are participating in a safe and controlled environment. In India, we got the opportunity to seamlessly implement the Allsecure health and safety standards at the physical edition of our premium travel and tourism expo, SATTE, in March 2021, thereby strengthening the trust reposed in us by our stakeholders. This also gives us the added confidence to do so in our upcoming physical and hybrid expos.
The industry is at the cusp of a transformation, and we must inevitably work towards a sustainable system of organizing events. Technology will play a crucial role in the transformation and, irrespective of virtual or physical events, it will play a key role in this ongoing transformation.
Yogesh Mudras, Managing Director, Informa Markets in India