Planning for 2021

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As we creep closer to the end of 2020 we’re getting to the point in the year where planning for next year’s trade show season comes into play. This year and the year ahead are wildly different than any of us have experienced. I’ve been gathering information from clients and major nationwide vendors to start setting expectations for us, but also to have intel that may be helpful for our clients. Here are some of the expectations to have:

Hybrid Show Formats

For the past few months this has been the leading pitch to get live events back sooner. Hybrid shows will offer a combination of an in-person and virtual exhibition. The plan is to capture those who are within a day’s drive and willing to make the trip physically at the show. Those that are unsure of the safety or unable (international travelers, domestic businesses with travel restrictions, etc.) would be able to have a virtual option to participate. This also allows the attendance levels to be maintained within whatever restrictions may be in place. Many think this will be the dominant model for 2021.

New Show Cities

Some of the bigger trade show cities like Chicago, New York, Anaheim and even Las Vegas are all in states that have restricted an opportunity to allow for shows to begin. With no timetable on that letting up, show organizers and cities with softer restrictions like Dallas, Atlanta, Nashville and Orlando are finding each other to match up for 2021. The Governor of Nevada is starting to feel the pressure from Reno and Las Vegas to increase the capacity, coupled with pressure from big show organizers there seems to be some softening towards opening, but it may be too little too late. If exhibiting in person, expect you may be in a new city for 2021, and we could see an industry shift to Southeastern dominance as a result.

Shortened Travel Radius

Air travel remains challenging and undesirable for business travelers right now. A prominent show decorator said internal polling showed people were generally okay with attending shows, but not flying. For many larger companies, it isn’t allowed. Some companies that have flight restrictions are starting to allow vehicle travel. This coupled with the planned use of the hybrid approach above is leading to smaller, regional shows being the expectation.

Required Flexibility

If we’ve learned anything this year it is to expect the unexpected. Shows are going to be very fluid, especially early in the year. They’re going to do everything in their power to achieve at least partial live experiences, but that will make them vulnerable to late stage postponements and format changes (live to virtual). Be cautious with nonrefundable expenditures, look into exhibit rentals that can be pushed to a future show if needed. If you purchase an exhibit, keep the graphics generic enough for future use, and budget for storing it. I’ve spoken with clients domestically and internationally who are preparing now to have everything ready in advance up to the point of production so that they’re ready to go as soon as the show confirms it is running.

Let me know what your organization is planning to do in 2021. I will do my best to stay informed for anyone that may want to strategize. Feel free to use us as a resource!