Boris Johnson has delivered his Roadmap to Recovery (Feb 22nd) the plan gives a staged return of the things we all hold dear. One element of particular interest was the phased return of live events and conferences ahead of restrictions being lifted on June 21.
In this first PLANTWORX blog we reflect on what has been the most difficult of years, in addition to looking forward to the return of live events and how the past twelve-months may have changed how we attend, interact, and contribute forever.
As the winter of 2019-20 was drawing to an end and the UK was reporting its very first Coronavirus cases, we had just enjoyed the 2020 Executive Hire Show in February, and many were putting the finishing touches to their plans and arrangements to attend Conexpo in Las Vegas. Many more were looking forward to Hillhead, Vertikal and UK Construction Week to name but a few.
The Cheltenham Festival and its aftermath as the Pandemic took hold, pressed pause on crowds at live events (that depressed button position, remains as the abiding metaphor for a desperate nation ready to safely mingle once again). We all know what happened next…we followed the rules and got creative…
Zoom for most, pre-Spring of 2020, was only recognised as a hit for US soulster Fat Larry. The first invites to webinars began to arrive, and we learnt… they were not as bad as we thought, indeed we actually found the majority interesting and informative…who knew.
Marketeers and event organisers recognised that a captive, work from home audience was large, accessible and much easier to hit. Social media reach and impressions soared to record levels as desk-bound targets seemed keener to open content and actually engage.
The first on-line digital events quickly followed, from National events such as UK Construction Week, through to hire companies such as Sunbelt, Speedy and Hirebase reaching out to suppliers, in addition to construction equipment distributors such as Ernest Doe who held their 61st and first virtual DoeShow.
Developers and platform owners were welcomed like never before as they had a turnkey solution to enable virtual live events to be set up quickly and cost-effectively. Exhibitors for the most part found the platforms intuitive and efficient and most importantly of all, visitors registered, ‘attended’ and participated. With many exhibitors and organisers reporting good business with a noticeable enquiry to conversion improvement.
At the CEA, a ‘power hour’ platform was launched, a pragmatic one-hour session, once a month, covering topics of interest from Brexit, Global trade and tips on improving cash flow using Government R&D tax credits, to the latest innovation from Leica, delivering solutions to make the industry safer and smarter. Participation and interest in the ‘power hour’ continues to grow, with interest in participating and registering at an all-time high.
In all probability, without the Pandemic, virtual events would have very likely gown to today’s level of interest and interaction by 2025, COVID 19 has simply accelerated the timeline. The construction industry, however, is a people business and we all know the adage that people like to buy from people. This leaves many of us certain that live events in our industry will prevail, but we have seen the future and we like a lot of what we see.
The key for orgainsers is how to strike the correct balance of live events versus virtual events or more importantly how to blend the two. A perfect hybrid that will allow the social and physical side of real people, live demos and the unique atmosphere of trade shows to work in partnership with the digital delivery of information. A period perhaps pre-show and post show, that will add value by improving the customer / visitor experience, encouraging conversations, enabling communications and growing conversions.
Data capture from this fusion will enable further improvements around how organisers and exhibitors are able to communicate with relevance, respond with reason and build a relationship of purpose.
In the short to medium term, we look forward to the controlled return of live events, perhaps lateral flow tests may be the answer but quite frankly anything that enables confidence and the safe entry to the outdoor events of this summer and early Autumn will have to be considered.
The Vaccine roll out will, during this time, have reached the vast majority of the population, so it is with some optimism we wish all the events who have rescheduled to 2021 the very best. Where we are able and feel comfortable, we should make every effort to support every event this year. While it may not be the same, we have all heard the predictions of events opening earlier, staying open longer and managing the time we have to visit. Whatever it takes let’s do it and get live trade events back on in 2021.
PLANTWORX is planned to return on June 14-16th 2022. We look forward to welcoming you to Peterborough for what will be the largest and most relevant live construction show of the year, with of course, a digital and virtual interactive element to ensure your visit is both as enjoyable as it is informative.