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Tradeshow Evolution in a World of Social Distancing

by Ed Zilinskas, E.V.P. at Lab Exhibits & Services

“Great change dominates the world, and unless we move with change, we will become its victims.”

Robert F. Kennedy

Many people are wondering how a tradeshow will function logistically in a world of social distancing. 

The situation is continuously evolving, and there are several things that we may see happen to promote health, safety, and peace of mind at future events.

Tradeshow Attendees

Attendance – A strong show attendance has always been favorable. Going forward, how will a venue control registration and attendance without sacrificing business? Here are some ideas to consider: 

  1. All registrations should be online to allow for badge mailing in advance of the show. It will not solve all registration issues, but it will significantly reduce show site lines.
  2. Lengthening the number of days or hours a show runs could control the daily attendance without reducing overall numbers.   
  3. Color-coded badges for specific time blocks could also limit the daily crowd.  
  4. Preshow, scheduled appointments for attendee visits to any exhibit may become the rule.  Otherwise, there are no guarantees the exhibitor can allow visitor entry at random times.
  5. Monitored entry points or greeting counters at each exhibit, not unlike a restaurant controlling client reservations, could become a necessity.
  6. Separate meeting locations could be created in the hall to segregate the audience time slots and allow for longer sessions with vendors and to augment limited space in the exhibit.

Health Screening – Screening people is currently being discussed for all establishments. A person may need to have their temperature taken before entering the show floor. Though we know this may not be foolproof, it may be something that could occur.

Venue Size & Flow – How will venues manage social distancing within the show hall? The show footprint may have to expand with wider aisles to allow for more spacing between exhibitor displays to decrease congestion.  Aisles might become directional. 

Exhibit Layout – Exhibits may need to be enclosed entirely or re-configured with fewer entrances and separate exits to control traffic flow.  Floor markers, partitioned meeting spaces, and sneeze guards might become a new norm.

We may be at the dawn of a whole new way of conducting business on a tradeshow floor.

Etiquette – Handshakes will no longer be socially acceptable. Facemasks may also be commonplace. How will you read your prospective lead’s reaction with half of his face covered? 

  1. All networking or conversations could happen through a sneeze guard.
  2. The number of visitors in a display at one time could be limited to the available square footage within the booth.   
  3. Exhibitor attractions should be touchless or used with gloves if they are interactive.
  4. Show attendees should no longer handle consumer products without gloves.
  5. Email customer handouts after the show. Post-show emails are an excellent reason for the sales team to follow-up with prospects.
  6. Business card exchanges may now only happen through a digital app.
  7. Complimentary hand sanitizer, gloves, and face masks should be provided at each booth and the entrance of the show hall if they are deemed mandatory by the show manager.  Placing your logo on these items is also a great branding opportunity.
  8. Constant porter and sanitation service at each space.

Some of the above had been implemented at events long before the pandemic, now it will be amplified and taken to a whole new level.

Before and After Exhibit Examples

General Show Sanitation – Venues will have to increase sanitation efforts and position touch-free hand sanitizer stations everywhere. They need to sanitize any common seating, doors, and handrails continually. Facility transportation lines, eateries, restrooms, coat checks, and lounges will all be under great scrutiny and subject to strict distancing protocols and stringent cleaning efforts. Venues can also increase air intake/air exchange during event hours to decrease re-circulated air.  OSHA has outlined guidelines to provide a clean and safe environment. A link to these guidelines is below.

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

Sustainability – We do not know exactly what the future rules and regulations of the convention industry will dictate, but we do know evolution is coming to the world of tradeshows.  The ability to visit with multiple companies, products, equipment, and contacts in one location at the same time for motivated buyers will always make the decision process the most convenient, efficient, and economical. 

There are several great reasons to attend a tradeshow. Still, one of the most important factors is the “face to face” interactive business experience that is so crucial in building relationships. Because of this, tradeshows will never disappear. 

Contact us today for more information on how you can transform your exhibit space into a healthier and safer environment.

At Lab exhibits & services, we are here to help you through all of your current and future tradeshow and event needs.

For more resources and information, click here!

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Ed Zilinskas, E.V.P. of Business Development and Partner at Lab exhibits & services in Aurora, IL.

As a 30 year veteran of the trade show and custom exhibit industry, Ed has grown his display creation skills from the ground up. He has taken his experience as a show floor supervisor and coupled it with his executive-level design and marketing vision for his customers. He has excelled at helping his clients develop unique and functional displays that promote their brand, communicate their message, and create a positive and memorable experience for their target audience.
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