Making the case for live events
By Lori Kisner — If the COVID-19 lockdowns have taught us anything, they have shown how much we need human interaction to function as a society. As event producers, we have experienced just about all types of crises during our events. From hurricanes and earthquakes to blizzards and floods – and even various terrorist threats – we are conditioned to turn our events when a crisis strikes. However, COVID-19 brought many industry events to a halt – and not just temporarily. The pandemic-induced hiatus lasted more than a year, with most major global events canceled or postponed.
During COVID-19, the event industry has struggled with how to keep up
relevant to their business. Many companies launched ‘virtual’ versions of their live events online. If there was ever a question about whether virtual events will replace live events in the future, that question has been answered with a resounding “no.” In my opinion, most of the live events were poorly attended and exhibitors had a very low return on investment.
This begs the question: why were some virtual events not working? In post-virtual event surveys, many attendees said they missed the face-to-face, human interaction. Attending product-based virtual events was even worse because visitors need to see the products up close and personal to determine their quality and value. Virtual event attendees also said they found it difficult to navigate the event producers’ various virtual platforms. Worse, some exhibitors felt that their attendees didn’t bother to show up.
Why are live events so important? Like most industries focused on construction products and materials, the flooring industry has seen tremendous growth during COVID-19, with many dealers saying they are busier than ever. At the same time, flooring manufacturers face challenging supply chain issues and disruptions due to overwhelming demand from end users. That’s why it’s more important than ever for professionals to visit markets so they can buy new products and find new suppliers to support their growing business. In a product-based industry like flooring, buyers need to see and feel the merchandise in person before making a purchase decision. The weight and quality of the product simply cannot be translated on a computer screen.
The networking aspect of events is also a major reason dealers visit markets. Nothing replaces a face-to-face conversation and participants depend on those interactions to shape their business decisions. Visitors to Flooring Markets have also said that they can devote 100% of their attention to sourcing products while they are in the market, compared to working with salespeople who visit their businesses year round.
More importantly, event organizers have proven that conferences and conventions can be safely facilitated. So far in 2021, after hundreds of major events have been held, very few COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported. All convention and visitor agencies in the cities where we hold our markets work tirelessly with the hotels and restaurants to ensure their guests have a safe experience.
We expect that the events in 2022, while still attracting, will have very strong, high-quality buyers around the world. We are convinced that regional events will be the first to come back. Attendees who may be hesitant to get on the plane will find regional events a great option to purchase new products.
Lori Kisner is a managing partner of Market Maker Events, which hosts three regional flooring events annually: the Southeast Flooring Market, Southwest Flooring Market and the Gulf Coast Flooring Market. For more information, visit flooringmarkets.com