Trade Shows / 09.29.21 / By Chase Howells

Fall Trade Show Observations

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As I read Exhibit City News today I was confronted with two headlines next to each other, one about a show cancellation and one about a show’s record breaking size. What a picture of how the return of events has been this fall! We’ve known most of the year that nearly all of the planned trade shows were going to occur within a stretch from late August through October. Cramming the shows that normally occur across 52 weeks into 8-10. Throw in labor shortages, supply issues and a global pandemic and we have surely had the ingredients for trade show chaos (we can call it Pumpkin Spice trade show chaos since it is fall). As we’ve made it about halfway through, here are the observations I’ve had so far:

It’s Happening!

While there have been show cancellations, the large majority of events have gone on and have done so without pandemic related issues.

The Experience is Different

In a variety of ways, shows have been different this fall. The hybrid show floor with both the in-person event tied in with a virtual event has been fairly common, but beyond the challenges hybrid events pose for show organizers and exhibitors, they’ve taken some exhibitors and attendees off the floor altogether making the event feel smaller. Many shows have had a reduced footprint and the attendees exhibiting are doing so with a reduced footprint as well. And while people understand the necessity of masks and distance, trade shows without big smiles and handshakes are certainly a change.


Unfortunately the hype has been real as it pertains to lead times and availability. We have watched leads that stretch from 1 week to 4-5, and common display items remain out of stock. We have also noticed shipping has been very unreliable. Building in extra time is a must, as I’m not sure there is a clear end in sight with the issues here.

Expect the Expected

Most exhibitors I’ve talked to recognize and have anticipated what challenges to expect both before the show and while there. Really, I haven’t had anyone tell me they were underwhelmed or blown away by the experience. No one thought it would be 2019, or runaway crowds or quick turnarounds.


There is growing optimism for 2022, both by show organizers and exhibitors. This fall has been key in building that. It has allowed for everyone to see how trade shows and events are going to look at least for the next year or so. The ice has been broken and people recognize events can occur. The schedule for next year is more regular and the planning from exhibitors as well.

For everyone that is going to an event in this back half of the fall run, while the above isn’t necessarily a glowing report, I hope it can provide a realistic view of what it will be like. Have fun, be safe, be flexible and take in the changes to best prepare for future shows!

If there is anything we can help with for October, or if you’re ready to start talking 2022, feel free to contact us!