Trade shows will look different
The corona crisis disrupted our habits and of course also the tradeshow calendar. All the postponements, cancellations should hopefully be over in the coming weeks/months, so that events will be able to take place again. However, we can’t expect things to be back to normal instantly. Therefore, you will unquestionably have to comply to a certain number of rules at your next tradeshow. What will follow in this article is not an exhaustive list of required measures. You might encounter other obligations when you go to an event. Still, after some research, some reading, and contacts with venues and organisers, I could sum up a few of the mainstream measures we should encounter in the coming months when visiting an event. So here you go!
Trade shows in corona times
- Face mask: this is not a big surprise. It seems that face masks will be mandatory. With huge crowds, masks are usually advised. Trade shows by definition are also a place where you will walk around with face protection.
- Let’s keep it clean: Cleanliness will have to be omnipresent and will have to be respected at different levels
- At the entrance of a show and on many areas, you will be sure to see dispensers where you can clean your hands.
- Exhibitors should clean their booths regularly, and also provide sanitising dispensers for the visitors who stick around for a meeting.
- The places which are touched regularly will be cleaned several times per day. So, doors, handles, toilets etc… should get extra attention compared to previously. Although, I expect that some exhibition centres will find ways to keep doors open and limit visitors having to touch too many surfaces.
- Keep your distances: The 1,5-meter rule remains applicable and there are many ways in which it will be facilitated.
- When conducting a meeting, you will be advised to keep your distance, whether you are at a booth or any other location on the trade floor.
- We can expect that alleys will be larger or that at least a system of traffic flow will be implemented. A flow management will avoid crossovers, so you might for example have to follow a certain path when visiting a show or see that certain alleys will be one way only. (I don’t know if there will be policemen to enforce traffic regulations though)
- And get your walking shoes ready because it could be that in some cases, exhibition areas will be wider to ensure the social distance rules. It could mean that compared to a previous event, an exhibition area is larger or uses an extra exhibition hall.
- If tradeshows reopen, it means conferences and seminars will also again take place on the exhibition area. What you can expect is that social distancing rules will have to respected on the seating area. Surely, only sitting will be allowed, so crowding at the back or the side of a seminar will no more be allowed.
- Digital: Digital tools will be helpful in many ways. And actually, the COVID crisis is a catalyst for the spread of digital solutions.
- Your registration will become fully digital (if it was not the case previously). It will be good for you to register and (when required) print your badge in advance to avoid any handling at the entrance. And actually, like me, you might still have a badge holder and necklace from previous shows. So why not use these? (And this way you use less plastic, that’s why I do it ;-))
- Digital signage: As mentioned above, circulation flows will be implemented. So, you can expect digital signage to help guide you through the exhibition areas. Also, you will get updated information about the number of visitors and the current daily situation at the event.
- Digital documentation: this is a good one that will also save on unnecessary paper usage. In order to avoid handlings and germs spreading via folders and brochures, you should find ways to digitalise your documentation. It is perfectly feasible to send emails directly, use QR codes, or other similar solutions.
- Breathe: Sufficient ventilation will be provided by keeping the doors open when possible (except fire doors obviously). And you can expect venues to make investments, if necessary, in ventilation systems regulating air flows (in and out). I even read some venues will invest in special UV systems, helping with air disinfection.
- No fun?:
- No events at your booth: Obviously, events at booths such as little seminars or cocktails will not be able to take place for a while. Alternatives will be for you to organise them outside the hours at other safe locations, or see with the organisers if facilities are available on the exhibition area.
- No shaking hands: On tradeshows we sometimes see old friends we haven’t seen in a while, we meet new business partners, but we can’t greet them with hugs or hand shakings as we used to. At least for a while.
- Limits: Sadly, some measures will make us feel a bit constrained.
- Limits in numbers of participants: To ensure perfect flows some exhibitions might limit the number of visitors.
- Limits to your visiting time: You will have to be efficient and plan your visit very well. (In a way it’s something you should already do all the time.) But in order to make sure everybody can visit, and to regulate flows, some venues and organisers might ask you to spend only a certain amount of time at a show. To enforce these limitations, digital solutions mentioned above as well as mobile reminders should be in place.
- Food: Catering areas will certainly adapt their flows (queuing systems etc) and review their offer. Also, for food shows, you will see the tastings taking place differently as both exhibitors and caterers will have to use single served individual portions. Sadly, this might bring a surge of plastic packagings. However, I hope caterers and food companies will make an effort and use more sustainable solutions.
- Be reassured: Also, don’t stress. You probably never noticed but many venues have firemen and medical teams posted nearby. You can be sure they will still be ready and present to intervene or welcome the potential suspected cases they will spot in the crowds.
- Virtual: Definitely, this COVID crisis is a catalyst for the virtualization of trade events.
- Live from your home or office: You might have limitations in participants, or some people might be afraid to show up and be exposed to the virus. So, some conferences and webinars will be available virtually, live, and probably also after the show. That’s a good way to meet an unsatisfied demand.
- Totally virtual events: I even have seen many organisers look into the possibilities of organising their events completely virtually. In order to do so, many are investing or working with companies specialised in VR/AR. (And that is actually a good topic for another article, what do you think?)
As mentioned, this is not an exhaustive list, but you can be sure that most of these points will be covered and enforced by organisers and venues in the coming months.
A collective effort
Without a second corona wave, let’s hope events and tradeshows will be able to take place again soon. Obviously, to make the events successful and worthwhile, we will need to adapt to these new rules.
To be honest, many of these are just common sense or an extension of what we have already faced so far during this crisis. There is certainly no need to complain or feel constrained from these measures. It is about keeping the risks low and fighting the spread of viruses.
But I believe we will all have an extra duty. When tradeshows reopen their doors, and we go again to work and make business; we will need to do more than just follow the new rules. We should also think about making our efforts more efficient to render our tradeshow experiences more fruitful and fun. We won’t be able to shake hands, or organise extra events on booths, we will be wearing masks, etc. So, as we have new parameters to think of, we should be creative to attract the attention and network. We will have to plan our visits more efficiently, and need to be strict with our standards and goals. To sum up, we will need to raise our efforts to make our presence on tradeshows even more fruitful.
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