B2B Marketing: the end of traditional conferences and trade shows?

The current pandemic has changed many things in human interactions, especially “distancing” and therefore, prompting many companies and organizations to rethink their habits in terms of traditional conferences and trade shows.

In his most recent blog post, Alain Thériault mentioned that by the end of summer 2020, we will no longer be shaking hands, but rather, share a fist, elbow or even, a foot bump!

The sneaky COVID-19 virus has sounded the death bell or close, for B2B marketing events and trade shows that are now called “presentials” … Bye bye for now, to good old lectures with more than 500 people in one room, to buffet lunches in a vast, crowded networking space and to evening gatherings.

Goodbye as well to professional salons, commonly called “trade shows” and oh so popular for companies in B2B. Stands and kiosks have also become virtual, removing one of their tools of choice from the sales forces.

The virus has forced everyone everywhere to review all types of gatherings. New forms of virtual conferences such as Zoom and Facebook LIVE, which Alain discussed in the previous post quickly appeared.

But major conferences have also reinvented themselves in a virtual and in some cases, such as Montreal’s Startupfest 2020,  in a hybrid event that combines the virtual and the present-day, in accordance with health standards.

Clic on the image to access day 2 video

No need for travel, the conference comes to you!

But for our neighbors to the south, not much conferences are yet permitted. Never mind, the IT solutions vendors came to the rescue by offering companies and conference organizers new custom-made platforms. Or others that already exist but much less immersive …

Do you know HOPIN?  

This new conference platform offers a total virtual experience with the same features as a real one, with its room for “keynote” presentations, called the “Stage,” multiple “rooms” for other conferences, a networking venue, and even a room for an exhibition; a virtual trade show! So, no need to move, the conference is coming to you!

Practical for businesses or all who are self-employed, as this avoids transportation costs, accommodations, etc. But you still have to pay to get in. At ExoB2B, we used it for the B2B Marketing Ignite USA conference.

And here’s a “behind the scenes” montage of the conference…

montage hopin

On the left is the reception, with access to the main functions and the schedule of conferences and keynotes. On the right top screen is the keynote room with Lee Odden in an interview at the beginning of his keynote. The middle screen shows the services in the other rooms and the bottom, the Virtual Expo.

Note that in each window, participants can interact live. There is also the possibility of doing one-off surveys and a tab to see who is virtually in the room.

There is also a place to offer feedback: polls are everywhere, especially in the networking room (see image below).


Of course, all the speeches of this great annual B2B marketing conference are available on the conference web page and stored on Viméo.

A transient phenomenon or here to stay?

With this type of platform, virtual conferences have multiplied in recent months to replace the good old live conference. The B2B Marketing Ignite conference is already announcing its 2021 virtual edition in London while the USA version seems to opt for a presentation in Chicago.

Here’s what the main organizer, Joel Harrison, mentions in a 3D virtual environment, what to foresee in the future?

Joel Harrison

Click on the image for the video

Currently, in Quebec, de-confining measures allow gatherings of up to 250 people. That’s enough people to do a mixed conference, like Startupfest, by respecting distancing rules and public hygiene standards.

Not yet to have a conference like BEFORE…

Too bad for the sellers and representatives of companies who met in trade shows or conference exhibitions.

Gone are the good old days of face to face B2B? Is part of the sales cycle now anchored in virtual, for good?

Looking at the recent Ignite conference and the reaction of the participants, one would be inclined to believe it, when in addition, there are webinars and LIVEs and soon, immersive 3D.

What do you think? Anchoring virtual practices in the daily life of B2B marketing or, a simple passing while waiting for the return of human contacts and “presentials” in a total deconfinement in the absence of viruses?

Or the adaptation of B2B marketing to the digital transformation that is accelerating in companies? We would love to have your feedback on this.

This could also be the subject of our next Facebook LIVE

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