What to expect from Formnext Connect and most importantly, how should AM companies prepare for it?

Key Insights from Sascha F. Wenzler Vice President of Formnext
Formnext Connect will take place virtually from 10-12 November 2020

With 852 exhibitors split into four halls and over 34 000 visitors, last year, Formnext established itself as one of a kind show in the entire AM world. It usually takes months before companies announce their participation at events, but last year, at the end of the 2019 edition, most exhibiting companies had already arranged to come back for the 2020 edition and even announced it through their social networks.

Then, Covid-19 came into play. From outbreak to pandemic, the sanitary crisis has had a proportion and an impact that nobody would have expected. You are certainly well aware of this point, as wherever you are in the world, it has changed so many aspects of life.

For the global events industry, this impact was even more important as in addition to building community and driving innovation, workforce development and education, this field represents over 26 million professionals. It was valued at more than $1.1B in 2018 and was expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.3% to reach $2.3B in 2026.

Sascha F. Wenzler, Vice President of Formnext
Sascha F. Wenzler, Vice President of Formnext

Needless to say today, these projections have clearly changed. Events’ organizers across the world including Mesago, Formnext’ organizer, are rethinking their strategy.
At the time we are writing, China is currently the only country that is back on track with regards to the organization of trade fairs.

As far as Mesago is concerned, this “new normal” led to the creation of Formnext Connect, a virtual platform where, as per the words of Sascha F. Wenzler, Vice President of Formnext, the “AM community will finally have the opportunity to showcase their latest innovations and [where] attendees will be able to discover the entire world of additive manufacturing enabling them to incorporate the benefits of [this technology] into their production.”

Speaking of the goals they set themselves and how these goals have been adapted and have evolved, in light of current circumstances, Wenzler states: “To be perfectly honest, very few of our original goals were able to withstand the outbreak of the Corona pandemic. Surely, many of your readers will agree that adapting your goals and strategies was and still is daily business and may well stay with us for the foreseeable future. Only in early September we had to shift our goals once again from a hybrid approach for Formnext 2020 to a now fully virtual event. Rising infection rates with COVID-19 all over the world and Europe and as a result tightened travel restrictions both from the authorities as well as from companies of exhibitors and visitors alike ruled out a physical event with satisfying attendance figures.

However, since we are convinced that the additive manufacturing community still requires a platform for exchange in the autumn of 2020, we are now shifting all our efforts towards the launch of our virtual event “Formnext Connect.”

The reality is that countries around the world are setting new guiding principles to follow to organize small and large gatherings. With the goal of enhancing protection of all attendees – and to a certain extent, preventing the spread of the virus, event planners and officials can determine, in collaboration with local authorities, whether and how to make adjustments to meet the unique needs and circumstances of each situation.

Formnext is no exception, as it needs to comply with the current restrictions. “As a highly international trade fair with global importance Formnext is not immune to the current restrictions for personal encounters. Once the volatile infection rates stabilize and a sense of security returns, at least we [will already be ready] to organize a Formnext that meets the required health and safety measures”, the spokesperson explains.

What to expect from Formnext Connect ?

Organizations and companies have been organizing a lot of virtual events in the past months. These events aimed at enabling companies to exchange ideas, therefore they did not always replicate all the feature of a physical event.

As an event planner that has built extensive experience in the organization of gatherings, Mesago brings a vision that is necessary to organize a virtual event that will keep “this human touch” we all seek to maintain.

However, the challenge with a virtual event lies in the choice of the platform and its ability to enable a user-friendly experience for both tech-savvy people and beginners in the use of digital tools. With that in mind, Wenzler ensures that their aim is to make participation as convenient and efficient as possible.

“At a physical event it makes perfect sense to stroll down aisles and be inspired by the solutions on display. However, in the digital space this approach is not necessarily desired. Here, attendees wish to find the best solution possible through good filtering options and a clearly structured user interface. Performance issues and buffering times for CPU-consuming graphic elements are not acceptable and would spoil the experience.

Additionally, events such as Formnext are made by the random, inspiring encounters, which we try to transfer to the digital world and encourage through the AI-based matchmaking engine.
Lastly, content. Presentations, expert talks, round tables, showcases and additional formats such as Formnext.TV, which cover all aspects of additive manufacturing processes as well as the industries using them is an integral part of Formnext and will of course be included through live and on-demand streams.

By focusing on these three key elements, we believe our attendees and exhibitors will have a successful Formnext and be able to generate real value from their participation”, the spokesperson points out.

How should AM companies & visitors prepare themselves ?

On the other hand, exhibitors will observe a different form of preparation. The physical event of Formnext was one of the rare additive manufacturing events where companies could first distinguish themselves from others of the same range with their booth.

At Formnext Connect, exhibitors will also be able to make a real splash in the way they will exhibit. Basic requirements will consist in completing their company profile, uploading their product information and appointing their representatives.

“If exhibitors wish to go a little further, Formnext Connect enables them to include bespoke content. From links to their individually branded VR-show room to an integrated live stream with Q&As in a branded studio, options are limitless. We are simply providing the platform, where exhibitors will be able to make that all important connection resulting in meetings with their team members”, the Vice President of Formnext notes.

What’s interesting in this preparation is that, the way exhibitors will complete their profile and upload their information will attract their leads. Thanks to a state-of-the-art matchmaking tool, participants will be suggested products and exhibitors that are in line with their interests.
According to Wenzler, that’s the strength of Formnext Connect. “Matches will be determined by an algorithm based on users’ input and behavior. If both parties agree, video calls or in-person meetings at Formnext can be arranged. This offers a new dimension of coming into contact with potential customers”, Wenzler continues.

Formnext’ DNA remains intrinsically the same

Over the past years, Formnext has also been acknowledged for the wide range of sub-events to convey AM resources. Formnext Connect will also feature these popular events and numerous other live events to ensure a diverse and informative event program.

Formnext Connect is made possible thanks to the support of both the event’s exhibitor advisory board and AM companies that need to exchange and foster the advancements of this much-needed technology. As a matter of fact, this additional digital brand does not change the event’s DNA that remains intrinsically the same.

At different levels, the unprecedented times have taught us several lessons and have changed many things. We couldn’t agree more with Wenzler when he says: “social contacts and face-to-face-meetings are without a doubt the element [we] miss the most in this crisis”. “And like every crisis we have chances in it and it will come to an end”, Sascha F. Wenzler concludes.

Corporate communication and marketing expert by training at 3D Adept, Kety is currently leading the publication’s editorial and content activities. She has a unique gift for knowing how to grab an audience's attention on insights that matter – in this case, everything related to additive manufacturing. She believes that a wide range of innovations still have to be discovered about the technologies that shape the world of tomorrow and she has made it her objective at 3D ADEPT Media.