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It is no secret that events large and small have been decimated during the pandemic. As health has become the focus and large gatherings a danger the industry has had to sit idle for months. Trade shows and conferences having spring and fall peak seasons missed out on the first peak and we now sit in between seeing what is happening currently, for the fall peak and beyond. Here is where we are currently:

Virtual Is Dominating the Short Term

To maintain a footprint and allow some engagement between the usual exhibitors and attendees of certain shows, many events have opted for a virtual version for 2020. This trend seems like it may continue into next year as CES 2021, a well recognized early January event, announced going “all- digital” next year. This could become the plan for shows through the winter months.

The Live Shows are Adapting

A week ago the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando hosted the Together Again Expo for the industry to show how live trade shows can work in the COVID-19 world. The tagline for the show was “Advancing safe, smart and secure events” and certainly safety was the topic of the day and the focus on the show floor. Health screens, hand sanitizers and masks all utilized to provide the new-look live event experience. The end goal is to hopefully illustrate a pathway to live events sooner than later.

Another feature of this show, which has been gaining traction among others is hybrid participation. Meaning live attendees/exhibitors as well as virtual. This allows for participants from other countries as well as those who are not comfortable yet with the live experience. Given the restrictions on attendance, this is a good tool for shows to have.

Outside of that show, there is also now a “gold standard of cleanliness” established to assess facilities, here is who has this accredidation thus far. We’re also seeing some attempts at moving shows outdoors.

Vegas Baby

With so much of the Las Vegas economy tied up in live events, the city has opened itself up and many large, live trade shows are still planned to go on throughout this fall. Some additional states like Florida and Texas are allowing some shows as well. We will have our eyes on what happens in these locations as pertaining to event cancellations and attendance.

Click Here for the current reopening status of the different states for events.

International

Like the different states of the US, countries globally are a mixed bag as far as live events go currently. Here is a rundown from some popular international destinations:

The global exhibition association UFI plans to hold “glocalised” meetings in Switzerland, Hong Kong and Dubai this November.

What We’ve Been Hearing

Welcome to the anecdotal portion of the blog! As such, this is not comprehensive, though worth mentioning as we do talk to people at a number of companies spanning a variety of industries. Overall it seems that the majority businesses are conceding participation in live events for the remainder of 2020. Our conversations are also consistent with industry polling that we’ve been eyeing lately as well. Vegas being mentioned as open above, we have clients planning to exhibit in the fall and clients who plan to skip their show there this year. There are also some smaller conferences at small, contained venues that are pressing forward within the attendance limitations and safety regulations, even in Richmond!

Additionally, nearly all businesses have or will be participating in virtual events this year, but the reviews have not been glowing in comparison to the live counterpart of years past. The general consensus is people recognize the need to get back into live events from a business perspective, but know they have to balance that with the health perspective.

Getting Creative

Here at FrontLine we’ve been finding new and unique ways to stay busy during the pandemic. Still, our focus is finding solutions for our clients. That has led us into a myriad of COVID-19 related safety products and signage/communications. We also have been able to be a trusted resource for some clients’ unexpected needs. If these times have produced a strange need for you, let’s see if we can come up with something to help!

Who can help?

Businesses involved in the industry are hurting. We are in a largely unrecognized segment of the travel/hospitality industry. While people (general public, businesses and politicians) see and feel the struggle of airlines, hotels and restaurants many are less aware of live events. Go LIVE Together has emerged to advocate for the live event industry and the many businesses and people impacted. They are also working alongside some similar organizations such as the Live Events Coalition, SISO and Hospitality and Events Fight Back all with the effort to get the word out about the effected parties. Locally, I would just encourage the support of small businesses during this time. In speaking with a number of small business owners recently, anything and everything can help them survive an unprecedented time.

Overall, there is growing optimism for the return of live events. Until there is a feeling of safety and a provable plan to protect attendees, virtual is going to largely rule the industry. The fall is looking to bring more trade shows, events and even live sports. We’ll start to see if there is a viable path back in the short term or not.

What are you seeing? Doing? Feeling? I’d love to hear about it!

*Featured image from the Together Again Expo by the Orange County Convention Center via Twitter

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