Is Virtual Reality a serious risk to the exhibition industry?

Driven by key players like Apple or Facebook or entire industries, e.g. the gaming industry, various technologies like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are becoming more and more popular. But how do these technologies affect the exhibition industry and are they a real threat to the industry?

Session about Digital Disruption at UFI Global Congress in Johannesburg

At the last UFI Global Congress in November 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa, Gunnar Heinrich (CEO adventics & Scan2Lead) held a session on “Digital Disruption” with his colleagues from the Digital Innovation Committee Stephan Forseilles (easyfairs) and Matthias Tesi Baur (MBB-Media). The panel raised different controversial and thought-provoking topics with the audience, prompting a lively debate over the pros and cons of each issue.

The audience view on this topic

During the session in Johannesburg, there were some arguments which underline the thesis of a real threat to the exhibition industry:

1. Exhibitors will book less space because they can demonstrate bigger items or variant of machines virtually.
2. Some exhibitors will disappear while moving to the digital space thinking their marketing budget is better spent there.
3. Expensive experiments by the organizers will end up with no results.
4. Other players might benefit from the innovation.

On the other hand, there have been a lot of arguments against this thesis, claiming that Virtual Reality is a welcomed add-on to event products:

1. Exhibitors will use it anyway – Let’s make it a business model.
2. It will be a substantial content element for our 365-initiatives.
3. If we don’t offer it, we will weaken our show portfolio.

Overall, the majority of the attendees disagreed that Virtual Reality will be a threat to the exhibition industry but it might be a useful complement. People will continue to want to meet face-to-face. This is why it was also discussed that everyone should keep an eye on the ongoing development and evaluate permanently in which way these new technologies could benefit existing business models in the exhibition industry.

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Munich, 10 July 2018, © adventics GmbH