By Lori Kisner —If the COVID-19 lockdowns have taught us anything, they have showed how much we need human interaction to function as a society. As event producers, we’ve experienced just about every kind of crisis during our events. From hurricanes and earthquakes to blizzards and floods—and even several terrorist threats—we have been conditioned to pivot our events when a crisis hits. COVID-19, however, brought many industry events to a grinding halt—and not just temporarily. The pandemic-induced hiatus lasted over a year with most major global events either canceled or postponed.
During COVID-19, the events industry has struggled with how to keep their businesses relevant. Many companies launched online “virtual” versions of their live events. If there was ever a question of whether virtual events will replace live events in the future, that question has been answered with a resounding “no.” In my view, most of the virtual events were poorly attended and exhibitors were left with a very low return on investment.
This begs the question: Why didn’t some virtual events work? In post-virtual event surveys, many attendees said they missed the in-person, human interaction. Attendance at product-based virtual events was even worse because attendees need to see the products up close and personal to determine their quality and value. Virtual event participants also said they found it difficult to navigate the various virtual platforms provided by the event producers. Worse, some exhibitors felt their attendees didn’t bother to show up.
Why are live events so important? Like most industries focused on building products and materials, the flooring sector has enjoyed tremendous growth during COVID-19, and many dealers say they are busier than ever. At the same time, flooring manufacturers are experiencing challenging supply-chain issues and disruptions as a result of overwhelming end-user demand. That’s why it’s more important than ever for professionals to attend markets so they can source new products and find new vendors to support their growing businesses. In a product-based industry like flooring, buyers must see and feel the merchandise in person before making a purchasing decision. Product weight and quality simply cannot translate on a computer screen.
The networking aspect of events is also a major reason dealers attend markets. Nothing replaces a face-to-face conversation, and attendees depend on those interactions to shape their business decisions. Flooring Markets attendees have also mentioned that they can give 100% of their attention to sourcing products while at market compared to working with sales reps who stop by their place of business throughout the year.
More importantly, event organizers have proven that conferences and conventions can be facilitated safely. So far in 2021, after hundreds of large events have been held, there have been very few COVID-19 breakouts reported. Each of the convention and visitors bureaus in the cities we hold our markets are working tirelessly with the hotels and restaurants to ensure their guests have a safe experience.
We anticipate 2022 events, while still rebounding, will have very strong, quality buyers participating around the world. It is our belief that regional events will come back first. Attendees who might be reluctant to get on a plane will find regional events a great option to source new products.
Lori Kisner is managing partner of Market Maker Events, which organizes three regional flooring events annually: the Southeast Flooring Market, Southwest Flooring Market and the Gulf Coast Flooring Market. For more information, visit flooringmarkets.com