Foreword to IFT 20 Virtual Preview 2020

The “boom of Zoom”: what’s happened to our trade shows this year?
by Charles Faulkner

Until the COVID-19 outbreak struck several countries in February 2020, international trade shows for dietary supplements & natural foods industries were considered essential for global food business. They were the places where buyers developed new relationships and where journalists have sought new discoveries to report. During the pandemic, however, all large public gatherings have been either discouraged or banned, which has resulted in trade shows being delayed or even cancelled entirely until next year, causing a massive impact in the food & drink industries.

Governments around the world have issued stay-at-home orders that make in-person meetings out of the question until the crisis subsides. Some of the more tech-savvy companies have countered the wave of cancellations with online presentations.

COVID-19 has tremendously disrupted almost all businesses, particularly the trade show industry. However, in the wake of this crisis, a key thing that has rapidly emerged is virtual events. Several trade shows, as well as businesses of all sizes, have moved to more virtual presentations online. The benefits of these types of online based events, which include webinars and video conferences, have been known for years. But as we face an unknown future due to the developing corona virus, holding virtual events will not just be advantageous – it will be necessary. Virtual trade shows serve as a reminder that many events that happen in the physical world can be transformed into digital events that allow for the potential of lower costs and wider reach while responding better to sustainability and climate change issues.

These virtual events come with a new set of challenges “The boom of zoom” initial novelty factor attracting an overload on bandwidth and leaving people fatigued and baffled. So what of the short term future, as we see the phases of lockdown ease their way back into new normalcy.

There is optimism and some trade shows confirmed to go ahead for the remainder of 2020. Please see our projected list:

SHIFT20 (Virtual Event)
July 13-15
Join us for over 100 scientific sessions, 700+ research presentations, virtual panel discussions with live Q&A, provocative keynotes, global solution provider expo, networking on steroids, and a product development hack-a-thon to boot. Learn more at iftevent.org.

Vitafoods Virtual Expo (Virtual Event)
7-11 September 2020

NatExpo
Lyon, France
21-22 September 2020

Nutriform Business Days, 2020
France
29th September to 2nd October 2020

Food Matters Live 2020 (Virtual Event)
London
13-14 October 2020

Supply Side West 2020
Las Vegas, NV
October 27-30, 2020 Expo Hall
October 29 & 30 2020, Mandalay Bay

Fi North America 2020
Las Vegas, NV
October 27-30, 2020 Expo Hall
October 29 & 30 2020, Mandalay Bay

Fi South America 2020
Sao Paulo, Brazil
3-4 November 2020

Vitafoods Asia 2020
Singapore
24-25 November 2020

Fi China 2020
Shanghai
25-27 November 2020

Hi Europe/Fi Europe 2020
Frankfurt, Germany
1-3 December 2020

Fi Asia 2020
Indonesia, Jarkata
9-11 December 2020

The answer may be a Hybrid event, with a physical hub, with exhibitors attracting visitors as before, but with social distancing and other safety measures in place, with the added dimension of both the exhibiting personnel and visiting companies attending virtually by modem.

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