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In the week that mobile world congress didn’t happen in Barcelona, could this be the end of the road for massive trade shows?

As fears of international travel continue, this week’s empty halls at Mobile World Congress (MWC), have given rise to the question of the place of massive international trade shows in a post-climate-crisis world.

Certainly the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak made it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event, not to mention how many of MWC’s biggest exhibitors such as Facebook, Amazon, LG, Intel, Ericsson, Vivo, Sony, Orange, Vodafone, BT and HMD Global, which makes Nokia-branded phones, had already cancelled their places, making the event untenable for the organisers. But after formal cancellation the insurance policies would have kicked in and alternate plans could have been made.

So, what did the exhibitors do?

They held more bespoke, regional events to launch their new products and saved thousands in the process.

It’s realistic to assume that within marketing teams across the world, as well as in cofinitive HQ, strategists will be reviewing choices to attend big events at all.  David Phelen, writes in Forbes that this may be an opportunity for brands to announce new products in a new way, no longer constrained by the external trade show’s timetable.

Our own founder, Faye Holland recalls a time when Networks (the biggest ISP show of its time, going back a few decades!) was becoming an astronomical cost so she made the decision to pull the company’s exhibition sponsorship and instead liveried up numerous black cabs and sited them outside of Birmingham’s NEC so that everyone saw and used the branded cabs. It created a huge impact, for a fraction of the cost.

Taking this even further, in our post-climate-crisis world, should companies striving to be carbon negative be spending time, money and CO2 moving hundreds of employees and products around the world?

Online events (streamed, digital experiences) are not new – they just maybe aren’t been utilised as much as they could have been. And the same can be said for a whole range of technologies that facilitate alternative event formats.

There are also other huge benefits for online events outside of cost and safety – it is easier to make adjustments for inclusivity, not everyone is a fan of face to face networking, not everyone can take a day / days out of the office for personal or professional reasons – audience reach can therefore be more significant with people literally joining the sessions they are truly interested in.

Many companies in the event business have been working to make the event industry greener. At cofinitive, we made the decision last year to stop recommending any single-use plastic materials to clients, either as promotional or branding materials, and have been transitioning away from all plastic and event materials.

But is it enough for event organisers to reduce waste-heavy goody bags and use locally sourced food at events?  In the world of social media live-feeds and online conferencing, should we be transitioning away from massive events and looking for better, lower-carbon ways to build relationships instead?

We also must be cognizant of the larger supply chain – huge events have huge economic impact – the local tourism, the suppliers for the conference, the travel and transport and on and on it goes. If major conferences are to change, the supply chain will be affected.  This in itself is a theme where all businesses need to be ready to adapt and change as the word continues to change.

We will never move away from face to face meetings, but maybe they should just be more focussed on specific audiences and outcomes – that should be the objective whether a large or small event, online or offline.

We expect that this conversation will go on for some time – and with MIPIM fast approaching, we are expecting more cancellations and postponements as the health of the world is put as priority.  Meanwhile, we look forward to working with clients to help them make an impact with their communications and go-to-market strategies, whilst being aware of the need to minimise their impact on the planet.

 

Do get in touch with us today if you’d like to review your strategy.