It’s nearly the New Year, and there’s one big question on marketers’ minds: what will the future of trade shows be? While no one can definitively say, we do have some industry predictions based on our own experience and past historical events. Here’s our take on trade shows, 2021 edition.  


No return anytime soon. 

We don’t anticipate in-person shows returning in Q1 or Q2 of the coming year. But, they will eventually return, whether it’s because of a vaccine and/or due to diminishing effects of COVID-19. Be on the lookout for the following indicators roughly halfway through the year… The return of smaller, local events coming back will precipitate the return of regional and national large events. Also watch for sports stadiums to be filled at least 50% full, because that’s a strong signal that face-to-face trade shows will be reemerging shortly thereafter. 


Fast and furious comeback, but more consolidation. 

When in-person events are considered safe enough to hold, you can expect them to return with a vengeance. People will be eager to get back to face-to-face interactions and enjoy the entire experience of being in one place with peers, customers, vendors and experts. It’s very possible, though, that more shows will be consolidated. Instead of a million cardiology conferences, for example, organizers may decide to band forces and hold a handful that merge the most important aspects of them all. This is actually a good thing for the industry, because shows were becoming overly saturated prior to the pandemic. Moving forward, you can bet the shows that will be held won’t be as diluted, and will be coming back full force. 


Fewer people, but more of the right people. 

Just because the shows will be scheduled full steam ahead when they get the all-clear doesn’t mean attendance will be high. In fact, we’ll probably see small attendee numbers to start. But don’t be fooled by this; key decision makers will be the ones who are sent first. The same thing happened after 9/11 and after the 2008 financial crash. Fewer people traveled, but the ones who did were the ones making purchases and writing checks. So remember that this is a benefit to exhibitors. Rather than walking away from your next show with a boatload of unqualified leads who could never give the green light on ordering from you, you’ll have fewer – but far more qualified – prospects who can do just that. 

These are our top three predictions for trade shows 2021. We’re just as excited as the next guy (and gal) about how the industry will continue to show its resilience and return in a major way. Looking to plan your trade show strategy for the largely unpredictable coming year? We can help. Give us a call!