The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) released the second report in its three-part Global Virtual Event Trends series, sponsored by Swapcard,  providing new, hotly sought-after details on virtual events. This global study provides insights among organizations that traditionally run or manage in-person business-to-business (B2B) exhibitions. Report Two – Lessons Learned To Date and Technologies Used synthesizes open-ended comments shared by executives on lessons learned and technology to run their virtual events.

The historic pandemic created another rare phenomenon: the emergence of a new marketplace that appeared almost overnight like a volcanic eruption. When COVID-19 brought the industry to a screeching halt, B2B exhibition organizers who were forced to cancel in-person events flipped to offering events online. It has been a mad dash to secure services to make these events happen, with many market entrants responding and offering virtual event services. This report uncovers a crowded market of virtual event providers – over 100 vendors – vying for this high demand market.

Given the precipitous ‘pivot’ to virtual events, organizers were forced to launch events and ‘learn by doing.’ Report Two – Lessons Learned To Date and Technologies Used synthesizes and summarizes these key learnings. The executive summary provides a check list of recommendations based on the primary key learnings shared by executives.

I am in awe of B2B exhibition organizers who took on the challenge and made virtual events a reality to serve their communities during this time of crisis,” said CEIR Vice President of Research Nancy Drapeau, PRC. “I thank them for generously sharing their insights on what worked well and where they believe improvements are needed moving forward. This report offers peer learnings for executives searching for a resource for planning or to compare their notes on what worked well or not for their events.”

“CEIR is appreciative of the collaboration and generous support from over a dozen other associations that have made this research possible for the global B2B exhibitions industry,” added CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEM. “We thank them for enabling us to provide the industry with insights based on objective, unbiased research that will help our stakeholders understand and successfully respond to these trends.”

Through the generous financial support from Swapcard, CEIR’s Global Virtual Event Trends series reports are available to the industry at no cost from CEIR’s website.

“Swapcard is proud to have sponsored this survey,” commented Swapcard CEO and Co-Founder Baptiste Boulard. “We sponsored the research because we believe in industry-wide collaboration to keep lifting each other up, learning and growing together. We hope that this study allows B2B exhibition organizers to understand the value that virtual events can bring to the table and that they need to become data-driven if they want to succeed in today’s changing world of events. We at Swapcard have certainly embraced the best of technology to keep optimizing events for our clients and it’s paying off.”

Report Two – Lessons Learned To Date and Technologies Used provides insight on the following topics:

  • Technology/Solution Providers Used or Considered
  • Lessons Learned
  • Virtual Event Checklist/Suggestions
  • Key Findings
  • Technology Used
  • Lessons Learned About Offering Virtual Events
  • What Worked Well
  • Areas for Improvement

Differences by region and commentary by industry sector are included in this report. Remaining reports in the series include:

  • Report One – Anatomy of Virtual Events and Financial Outcomes
  • Report Two – Lessons Learned To Date and Technologies Used
  • Report Three – Case Study Examples


The survey fielded in October 2020. It was multilingual, giving respondents the choice of completing the survey in English, Spanish, Portuguese or Arabic.

The sample was generated via the generous participation of multiple organizations globally, which invited qualified members and contacts to participate in this initiative. CEIR is grateful for their generous support that made this research and reports for the global B2B exhibitions industry possible. These organizations include:

  • American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)
  • Association of African Exhibition Organizers (AAXO)
  • Canadian Association of Exposition Management (CAEM)
  • Federación de Entidades Organizadoras de Congresos y Afines de América Latina (COCAL)
  • Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association (HCEA)
  • International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE)
  • IAEE MENA Chapter
  • Philippine Association of Convention/Exhibition Organizers and Suppliers Inc. (PACEOS)
  • Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS)
  • Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO)
  • Trade Fair Times, India
  • Informa Mexico
  • União Brasileira dos Promotores Feiras (UBRAFE)

A total of 463 executives responded to the invitation to participate in the study, of which 346 were qualified to participate and completed the survey. The response rate is seven percent. Total percentage results provide statistically reliable results of plus or minus five percent or better, at the 95% interval.