Published on 07/09/2020
By Anthony Booty
Do I know if trade shows will be profitable for exhibitors when they restart? No, I don't.
Do I know when things will return to how they were before the pandemic struck? Of course not.
What I do know is there's no point in focusing negatively about the position that many other event suppliers and I find ourselves in through no fault of our own.
Instead, we need to focus on ways to improve things wherever that's possible.
One source of positivity in the current situation is the knowledge that many SME's long for the return of events.
That's because events were the primary source of their quality sales leads.
Enterprises like these need trade shows to return and we, as a collective industry, need to show how exhibiting can be safe and cost-effective even if visitor numbers are lower when events restart.
Tremendous efforts have been made on that front by industry associations in lobbying government and by many individual businesses lobbying their MP's.
This positive action has paid off. Business events can restart in the UK from 1st October.
Someone mentioned to me that talking about lower visitors numbers when events reopen is pessimistic. It's not; it's realistic and is, therefore, a positive element in event revival.
Two factors are bound to hit event attendance; lack of confidence among some buyers, and a massive reduction in international visitors coming to the UK.
Again, I'm not pessimistic. That's the reality with which we have to work.
Only if exhibitors display as they would have done before the pandemic struck, an alternative approach is required; one that matches current conditions.
Exhibiting can still be profitable if stand space or stand staffing numbers are reduced.
The critical thing for exhibitors to focus on is the exhibiting and meeting of prospective clients.
If it's safe to visit a supermarket, it's safe to visit a trade show and probably more so.
An organiser's ability to track and trace is of the highest standard due to the registration data they collect.
There will also be temperature scanners, one-way routes around shows and lots of sanitising stations.
In no way am I saying this isn't anything but a horrible time for stand builders, staffing agencies and a host of other event-related service suppliers. It most definitely is.
But to get to a better place, we need to provide solutions to exhibitors.
Solutions that show exhibiting is possible if only because we have identified and eliminated the risks currently stopping exhibitors from even considering shows in the short term.
Then, talking about event participation will, at the very least, be a big step forward from no discussion or consideration at all.
For many of us, it will be the first or the beginning step in that thousand-mile journey* which will take us to a better and more positive place.
*Adapting the Chinese proverb “A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single