The corona dilemma
The last months have been a very weird and unpleasant period for tradeshow organizers. The corona crisis forced everybody in the events sector to take measures, reschedule or even cancel planned happenings. Sadly, for everyone involved, the next months are still a blur. Some governments don’t seem to give clarity, or in certain cases don’t even seem to be preoccupied by the uncertainty professionals have to face. And on top of that, visitors and potential exhibiting companies are all uncertain. It is a pretty grim situation right now.
So, I thought it would be interesting to have look this week at a few angles concerning the current crisis. In following posts, I will review what a tradeshow could potentially look like post-COVID19. But first, let’s have a look at the difficult decision many organizers had to make or are still faced with today.
Common sense prevails
Obviously, when the governing authorities limit gatherings to a certain number of participants, or when travel is forbidden, tradeshows will be cancelled. I am not telling anything new here, it’s just common sense. A law or regulation is the obvious reason for cancelling or postponing an event. But you should not forget that other aspects are in play.
First of all, don’t forget that event organizers also have a responsibility towards their audience. They can’t risk the safety and health of their visitors or exhibitors. This is why you often see stewards, security guards, and even fireman and medical teams at many events (even if they are posted or strolling discretely on the exhibition area). So, out of concern and accountability, organizers take a viral threat seriously and also just decide to cancel or postpone for safety reasons.
ROI success close to inexistence
Secondly, let’s not forget that everybody wants an event to be a success. I will not start to enumerate the different tradeshow ROI’s one can or should develop, and bore you with theory in the next few lines. (Although, now that I consider it, maybe I should one day put that in another type of publication? What do you think?).
But let’s think for a second and imagine that an event can take place (legally). Then you need to ask yourself: will there be enough visitors coming? Will the travel ban prevent visitors and exhibitors to come? Some exhibitors cancelled their presence, will others follow? With the predicted number of visitors, and the leftover exhibitors, will the targets be met? Because once doubt starts to strike, and there is a certainty that the targets will not be met, then the logical decision is to reschedule the event.
Postpone or cancel?
Obviously, nobody wants to cancel an event. It is a synonym of loss. Often, your travel is planned and your tickets and/or hotel are booked, you had planned meetings with current customers and potential prospects, etc… Missing on these means definitely a loss.
But postponing an event is never easy. An organizer needs to find a new date in the calendar suitable for everyone, not clashing with competition or other events planned on the same exhibition grounds. Also, you don’t want to organize something too hastily later in the year. Besides what’s the point? The clash with other events is the one major issue if you ask me. The current international tradeshow schedule is quite balanced, so moving in the calendar always brings an event closer to its competitors. And moving an annual event later in the year, brings your event too close to your next year’s event. Let’s face it, what’s the point of moving a major event six months later? Exhibitors and visitors would have found other solutions to make business. And also, why would they come to an event when another one needs to be planned just a few months later? So, for international events such as Seafood Global Expo, Prowein, or more, one shouldn’t be surprised that their announcements of postponement eventually became cancellations.
Now imagine the issue for a biannual event. If you move your event to the next year, what will your plans be? You could be in direct competition with your archnemesis (you can think of a few examples like me, right?). And then what? You keep the biannual schedule from the origin or will you make a leap and stay in competition? Again, it’s too complicated.
So, postponement is tricky, and cancellation is a hard pill to swallow. That’s a horrible dilemma isn’t it? Anyway, I hope these few lines gave you a clearer view of what some of the uncertainties are and why it sometimes takes time for events to be officially rescheduled.
The current situation in the tradeshow and events sector is definitely one which is unique and complicated. Nobody has the right answer for the moment. But it is definitely time that this economical branch gets more clarity about the future.