The trade show and in-person event world has experienced many changes in the past seventeen months, including adding virtual trade shows. The pandemic has presented many opportunities to develop new ways to engage attendees in-person and digitally. Trade show booth designs have adapted so attendees and staff feel comfortable in exhibition venues. Current data shows what many marketers already knew, there is no substitute for face-to-face marketing.  

As in-person trade shows return, what are exhibitors experiencing? Here’s feedback exhibitors shared with Exhibitus after ISC West In Las Vegas:

  • While attendance was about half of the pre-pandemic numbers, 15,000 versus 30,000 typically, and the number of exhibitors was also roughly one-half, clients agreed that the quality of attendees was improved.
  • With smaller crowds, the time between demos could be longer, meaning that the sales teams were able to spend more time discussing products/services with individual attendees rather than having to quickly move forward to the next demo. Sales also felt this helped to further qualify leads on the show floor rather than later during post-show follow-up.
  • There was more unscheduled drop-in traffic from attendees curious to meet those exhibiting.
  •  One client had a more visible presence on the floor than usual, given that the company’s two main competitors did not attend. Also, they elected to keep overhead lighting which set them apart from most exhibitors who chose not to so.
  • With fewer exhibitors, one client was able to increase the size of their booth space and improve their location, something they had been wanting to do, but couldn’t because competitors held status in the process. Happily, they will retain their new location for future shows.

Safety first is an age-old saying but for today’s exhibit and event managers, it’s more than just a catch phrase. Exhibit staff and attendees will feel confident in meeting face-to-face when they know what protocols will be observed. Many exhibition venues and hotels worldwide now are GBAC (Global Biorisk Advisory Council) Gold Star accredited, which is comprehensive cleaning methods for surfaces and ventilation systems. The vaccines have been available in the U.S. since the spring and some trade shows are requiring proof of vaccination for entry to the event. Social distancing and mask wearing may be implemented based on local requirements.

Exhibit managers may see more new procedures at in-person trade shows and events. Many shows have wider aisles and those aisles may no longer be carpeted. “Contactless” check-in and entry is being used to reduce touchpoints. Some organizers are utilizing digital badges instead of paper badges. Exhibitors may increase surface cleaning for high touch areas within their own exhibit and have freestanding touchless hand sanitizing stations. At the close of the show, some general contractors are offering automated material handling release forms to reduce touchpoints for outbound shipping documentation.

Setting strategic objectives for ROI can be changed just like adapting the exhibit structures.  Formulate specific target goals instead of attendance figures. For some industries, smaller events may yield higher quality results. Exhibitor Magazine reports 68% of the exhibiting companies surveyed planned to resume participation in live events by the end of the third quarter this year. You can download the full white paper here

Many exhibit service providers are working with reduced staffs which directly impacts production schedules. Start planning ahead even if your trade show or live event isn’t until later this year or early 2022. Supply and demand drive pricing and availability so many material prices have increased. When planning the budget, be sure to allow for higher costs. Leisure travel is increasing along with business travel so the demand for hotels and flights are rising.

When you need assistance with your live or digital trade show program, feel free to contact us via email or call 817-370-1400.