Digital Disconnection

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Obviously, the pandemic has brought about unprecedented circumstances in nearly all areas of our lives; the biggest of which is the lack of human interaction. No matter where you are (in the world really) you have faced a period of lockdown and isolation. The timetables and the degrees of which may have varied, but we all have had a time where the only in-person human interaction we had was with those we live with, or even being alone. This brought about exponentially increased usage of all forms of digital interaction available as people sought ways to continue their human connections while abiding by stay home orders. I touched on this in last month’s blog (50 Days of Gray) and it has been affirmed to me repeatedly since, now that we’re almost 3 months into this people are missing human interaction.

I remember very early on in my time at FrontLine Exhibits realizing that there was a movement in the trade show and event industry to start pushing virtual events. At the time, the primary reasoning was cost savings as it was in the early rebound from the great recession. But they never ended up taking hold. I attribute that to a market that supplied much more cost effective solutions to meet the need, but even more importantly people’s desire for personal interaction for these situations. This time around I again see the drive for virtual interactions to supplant physical, and now we have both a cost issue with our economy in rebound and a safety/health issue to acknowledge to allow for comfort in moving forward in a similar manner as before the pandemic.

At the same time, I’ve had a number of conversations now with people directly impacted by the lack of in-person engagements who all agree that not only do they want a return to trade shows and events, they have to have them. B2B selling has always been best with personal interaction. The client has the ability to more fully engage a sales presentation and a salesperson has a chance to read unspoken cues and establish trust. The trust being the most foundational element of the B2B relationship.

It is no surprise that business is done better on the floor of a trade show versus digitally, just think of the overarching environment. The person attending the event travels to the location with a purpose in mind (researching products/companies, buying, etc.), they are surrounded by industry people, they are immersed in information, visuals and discussions surrounding a particular industry or segment. It is an all-encompassing experience taking them over for the length of the event. Contrast that with the digital meetings we’ve grown so accustomed to lately. The person is trying to carve out a time and a space to take a call without interruptions. If they’re like me, they’re situating children, finding headphones and barricading doors. There are many things pulling their attention away from the presentation and at best they’re absorbing the cliff’s notes. It just is not the same and will not be.

So that said, our industry of trade shows and events has been challenged with creating a safe, practical option that looks more like events of the past. I’m excited to see the creativity and ingenuity right now that is starting to deliver this. As the ideas fine-tune and there are successful use-cases, I’ll be sure to report! In the meantime, I’m happy to engage in the most personal virtual way possible or distanced in-person way, or whichever way people are comfortable. Just hopeful for safety and health for all as we continue to weave our way through this.