After 14 months of confusion, I’m happy to say there is finally optimism for the trade show industry! I have been tracking both the exhibitor/attendee side and the show organizer/back end side of the industry and all signs are pointing to a strong second half of the year. The third quarter in particular is looking like where the comeback for the vast majorities of companies will begin. Here are some notes to help for planning based on the information available at this time:
Survey Says: Exhibit
This is anecdotal, but I reached out to as many companies as I could to get their current 2021 trade show plans and with one exception they all had plans to exhibit by Q3 this year. Everyone has different circumstances they’re up against, but more than likely your customers and competition are planning to be at the show. At least get slotted in for your event(s) now and start prepping as if it is going to happen, even if you end up having to drop it or modify later in the summer.
Differences of Opinion
At present, and sentiments may change by fall, people are widely varied on the state of COVID safety. Not only are the shows themselves and exhibitors going to have differing levels of protocol, each attendee you encounter could have different expectations for what is acceptable in the booth space. There are booths being requested that have acrylic shields, hand sanitizer and spacing built into the design, and others are using their same setups as 2019 and prior. Train staff to be sensitive to their attendees. Working a show can become robotic in how people are approached so staff needs to focus on maintaining awareness. Hold off on initiating physical greetings, have PPE and sanitizer handy and give space. Also verify the comfort level of all staff involved before giving them a showfloor assignment.
The most popular booth designs in 2021 thus far are the ones being used prior to the pandemic. Most are opting to refresh graphics, and maybe modify existing setups as opposed to getting something new. Budget and uncertainty are the big factors. Until we all truly get a sense of what exhibiting post-pandemic looks like, it is the safest play. That said, don’t wait! Production leads are longer than usual for all projects, even just graphics. Booth size is also a consideration, larger spaces are getting smaller due to budget, but smaller spaces are getting larger to accommodate more spacing. Though this was a pre-pandemic trend, rentals are still increasing in popularity as well and are an excellent option for times like these. Lastly, many shows are going “hybrid” with both virtual and live elements. Are you set up to meet attendees on both fronts? Review our virtual page for more info on that side.
While many B2B shows aren’t cranking up until fall, the summer is providing some opportunities. Those events happening sooner than later are moving outdoors. Particularly those engaging B2C or in some retail capacity. Tents, flags and outdoor items are dressing up the asphalt and fields hosting events. People are showing to be less hesitant to attend outdoor events right now, many are in fact looking to them as something to finally go to. Don’t miss this opportunity to meet clients/potential clients in their excitement!
As convention centers open up and the show calendar fills, we are finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Our clients are excited to get back into trade shows and events. Hopefully this has been helpful on giving some general insight as to where things stand and what to plan for. We look forward to helping our clients knock the dust off their displays and get back into it, so please contact us to start planning!