I was recently talking with a client about plans for their fall trade show and event marketing efforts. During that conversation, they voiced concerns about how and if they should proceed with exhibiting considering the current COVID-19 pandemic. Based on that conversation, I crafted the following advice based on all the available information and guidance from top industry and economic advisors. After I pulled this guidance together, I realized that a lot of exhibitors have the same questions and so I wanted to share this insight for you to consider as you look to strategize for the future.
We are certainly in unprecedented times.
Here is my take based on all the data and information that I have gathered from several organizations in the trade show and exhibition industry as well as a key Economist for CEIR (Center for Exhibition Industry Research). This article with insight from Economist, Dr. Allen Shaw, is particularly helpful. https://www.ceir.org/news/ceir-releases-updated-insights-on-covid-19s-impact-on-u-s-b2b-exhibition-organizers/.
Most shows for the fall have not been cancelled and many of the shows from the spring, like Interphex, Waste Expo, and National Hardware, have rescheduled for fall. For the most part, you can find a link on your show’s main homepage with details about their schedule and COVID-19 response to keep exhibitors and attendees informed. With this in mind, the approach that we are recommending to our clients is this:
1. Confirm the safety measures that your show will be implementing.
a. Augment those in your own booth space if necessary.
i. Create “social distancing” space.
ii. Incorporate signage listing protocols like – no hand shaking.
iii. Have your team wear masks as appropriate etc.
iv. Provide hand sanitizer station(s).
2. Don’t completely pull out of your shows if you are satisfied with the protocols implemented by the show. Many studies show that companies who continue to market effectively during economic downturns are the first to recover and can see significant long-term gains.
Here is a great Forbes article to that effect: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bradadgate/2019/09/05/when-a-recession-comes-dont-stop-advertising/#24b747b54608
3. However, we recommend “right-sizing” your budget to account for a somewhat lower immediate return.
a. From an exhibit standpoint, this can be done by using exhibits that will:
i. Save money on Shipping, Material Handling, and Installation & Dismantle.
ii. Be more cost effective by using less expensive modular exhibit systems.
b. Additionally, we highly recommend considering exhibit rental which will maximize chashflow
for the current year.
i. This can save half or more of the exhibit cost for the current year.
Because of the somewhat “induced” nature of this downturn, many economists, including, Dr. Shaw, believe we could easily see a “V” shaped recovery. I believe this is likely, because there will be some pent up demand as businesses ramp back up from shut down. In fact, my industry’s primary trade show, ExhibitorLive, was rescheduled from mid-March to mid-August and as a business owner, I’m planning on participating because I believe there will be a decent rebound and I see value in positioning myself and my company for the long haul.
During difficult times, the choices we make for our organizations become even more important. Our advice, don’t stop telling your story, keep marketing…wisely.
With over 23 years of experience in the trade show and event marketing industry, Philip is a passionate Face-to-Face Marketing Specialist and Industry Thought Leader.