As COVID-19 has caused countless tradeshows and events to be cancelled or postponed, we have seen an industry-wide push to go virtual, a move that has forced many to ask if in-person healthcare trade shows are still relevant. As a healthcare technology company, we found ourselves asking the same question. Access has been a regular attendee of healthcare trade shows and conferences for the last 20 years, but in light of recent events, we’ve had to reevaluate whether tradeshows will be a part of our future, and to what capacity.
An Honest Path of Discovery Starting with a Poll
To help us answer this question, we recently conducted an informal healthcare peer opinion poll focusing on tradeshows in the healthcare sector and their relevance moving forward. The question was simple and straightforward: “Are healthcare tradeshows still relevant?” We received a tremendous amount of feedback from healthcare professionals in the US and found the results to be unsurprising. You can find these results in detail below.
Of the over 200 responses we received, less than 5% of participants stated that they believed healthcare tradeshows are still relevant, leaving approximately 190 of the 200 participants believing trade shows are no longer relevant. Even as the spread of COVID-19 has slowed down, healthcare tradeshows have not had the bounce-back we anticipated. Instead, what is emerging is a hybrid environment where professionals can connect in a tradeshow/conference environment in-person or online.
Where is the Future of Tradeshows Growing?
It appears that virtual events are here to stay. Between tradeshow attendance rates being at an all-time low and the responses we received from other healthcare professionals, we are beginning to see a transition to virtual conferences and tradeshows. At the 2021 HIMMS Conference, often referred to as the Superbowl of healthcare tradeshows, it was announced that just over 18,000 participants registered, and according to some, less than 8,000 actually attended. Although it may seem that a decrease in the number of in-person tradeshows will have a negative impact, the benefits of participating in virtual trade shows have driven the popularity and opened a new way for professionals to engage.
Remote Conference & Tradeshow's Top 5 Benefits
- Cost Savings: Whether you’re an event host, exhibitor, or attendee, virtual tradeshows have much lower costs than in-person ones. While budgeting for an in-person tradeshow, you must consider transportation, lodging, booths, food, and many other standard items, while virtual tradeshows eliminate the need for all of these.
- Data Capture: By hosting or participating in a virtual trade show, you are able to capture much more data about attendees. At an in-person tradeshow, you can obtain some basic information about the attendees along with a few business cards from those you interact with. At a virtual tradeshow, you can track everything the attendees do. You can record whom they chatted with, what marketing techniques got them to attend, and their path through the overall experience.
- Increased Exposure: Virtual tradeshows have longer lifespans than normal events. While an in-person tradeshow might last a few days, virtual tradeshows have the power to live on for weeks throughout which the content can be refreshed based on attendee feedback and success in the past.
- Enhanced Sales Experience: Virtual tradeshows often incorporate a variety of communication methods--such as instant messaging, demos-on-demand, and live Q&A-- into a single environment. This allows companies to communicate their messages quickly and effectively to mass online audiences.
- Ease to Attend: Eliminating space and time barriers not only makes it possible for virtual events to host a much larger audience than in-person events, but they are also easier to attend. People can sit at their desks or at home on the sofa and attend events when it is convenient for them.
Trade shows have been around for decades and are a proven way to reach new customers and connect with current ones. They are great for networking, but they are not always the most effective use of time. Virtual tradeshows offer an opportunity for you to do all this without having to leave your office or home. This does not mean that tradeshows are going to disappear, however. What many in the industry expect, is that a hybrid approach will take hold, where businesses of various sizes will have more access to attendees and healthcare leaders through new efficient ways to interact digitally or in person.
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