As I type the above headline, I am sure many wonder about the reality of this horrific virus that is so stealthy and one that thrives on social activity, coexisting with an industry that is based totally on social interaction. Now keeping in mind that I am a firm believer that for the next 8 weeks we should indeed be diligent in our social distancing efforts, there will be a time when we need to relax the practice, albeit slowly. At that point, I feel our industry will start to come out of this forced hibernation and we can breathe life back into what I have always believed to be the paramount platform for both b2b and b2c marketing. Let me say it right now‚Ä¶ COVID-19 is not going to eliminate face to face marketing, be it tradeshows, be it events. While dormant now, it will be back‚Ä¶ although with a slightly different landscape!
So, what does the future hold for us? How will both exhibitors and attendees re-acclimate to what will be the new normal for us? Here are some of my thoughts on what I feel we can expect to see, and what I think might help us get back to firing on all 8 cylinders.
1) Show Attendance – Let‚Äôs face it, we all want the show floor to be buzzing with traffic. Exhibitors go to meet both existing clients, new prospects and visit with industry peers. Now the reality is that beyond the designated aisles that are in place to control flow of people, it really is a free for all when it comes to traffic patterns and where people go and when they go.¬† Which leads me to some ‚Äúwhat ifs‚ÄĚ ¬†that I think might help our cause:
- What if we developed a registration system that determined the number of people that could attend each day? In other words, once you registered there would be a lotto system in place that designated you to one particular day that you could attend. For example; we have a four day show that runs Mon- Thurs, once you register you are allotted on specific day to attend. If that particular day does not work, you request a new day, much akin to having a timed-entry pass to get into Disney World. If needed, we can even drill down further and only allow am vs. pm attendance. This I feel will even out the days people attend, eliminate the crazy crowds on the 1st day and balance out the attendance on the last day where attendance is typically very light. Yes, this will be somewhat of an inconvenience to start, but let‚Äôs face it, we all need to adjust here. I personally think this could work in the short term. And if need be, we stay with this lotto system until we have a vaccine in place.
- What if we limit the number of attendees from a particular company that can register? Just send the key buyers that are responsible for making the decision. And I would say that this applies to any size company. Again, another way to control the number of people.
2) Footprints- While many subscribe to the mantra ‚ÄúGo Big Or Go Home‚ÄĚ, this too warrants some rethinking and reconfiguring.
- What if we consider cutting the size of the footprints down on the show floor? What if we don‚Äôt allow footprints larger than an inline 10‚Äô x 30‚Äô. Yes, I realize for some this will be a big adjustment and honestly as a booth provider I am not excited about saying goodbye to island footprints. But again, we really need do think out of the box and consider this new floor plan as a possible option for the short term. This will also cut down on staff needed which will help the cause in an effort to control crowd size.
3) Rentals- This could be the new norm for a while and one that isn‚Äôt driven by the usual considerations when choosing between rental or purchase.
- What if this now becomes the preferred option? It falls in line with my comments above regarding the need to consider scaling down our footprints. In reality, many exhibitors don‚Äôt have a booth that might fit this new paradigm and therefore will need to look at new inline booths. While we don‚Äôt have a crystal ball that can tell us how long we will be living with social distancing and related crowd control, this too could be a short-term solution as we plan for Q3 and QW4 tradeshows in 2020.
While I realize that my ‚Äúwhat ifs‚ÄĚ are a bit out of the box, for some might seem a very far-fetched and an inconvenience, truth be told for now (and the foreseeable future) I only ask that we all need to be open minded.
Stay healthy and safe and I look forward to the day when we can once again all say ‚ÄúHave A Good Show‚ÄĚ!
VP Tradeshow Services