The Future of Exhibiting: An experts’ prediction on what the trade show floor will look like after COVID-19

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By Quadrant2Design

It may look bleak right now, but the exhibition industry is going to bounce back. With shows postponed until the end of the year, it’s looking like a hugely busy final quarter for many businesses involved in the events supply chain.

That being said, it will likely go through a period of adjustment before the trade show floor looks anything like we remember. Although impossible to say for sure, making likely predictions is easy as we have been closely monitoring other relevant industries.

Based on this analysis, here are three things that we are predicting will happen in the future of exhibiting.

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1.   Capped Capacity

It’s highly likely that the government will ease restrictions slowly, rather than put everything back to normal straight away. This could mean putting a cap on the number of people allowed to gather at one venue at one time.

Initially, capped capacity appears problematic to the industry. Event organisers use high visitor numbers to attract exhibitors, who believe more people mean more leads. But that won’t necessarily be the case.

Exhibitors will thrive under these conditions. Event organisers will be forced to vet everyone who applies for a free ticket, meaning the trade show floor won’t be filled with school trips and interns. The people who have a genuine interest in your industry, with buying power and the authority to make decisions, will be the ones who qualify for a free ticket.

2.   Virtual Everything

In the current situation, if you want to host an event the only way you can do that is to take it online. Event Industry News were a step ahead of the game when they announced that the Sustainable Event Awards.

As people get more comfortable using this technology and attending virtual events, it is likely to become increasingly popular within our industry. Even once the ban on mass gatherings is lifted, we could see people hosting virtual events rather than physical ones.

This is because digital events have so many benefits. They are cheaper to attend because you don’t have the cost of travel, accommodation or supplies. There is also the obvious benefit of not having to physically attend. You are at less risk of spreading or catching disease (and your legs don’t get tired). SMEs and start-ups can position themselves next to global brands. The benefits far outweigh the negatives.

As the technology and willingness move forward, we’ll begin to see other elements of the exhibition industry go virtual. Leading exhibition stand designers, Quadrant2Design, have been offering virtual training to teach you how to self-build your stand for a long time and hundreds of businesses are holding meetings, job interviews and client pitches online. It is likely we’ll see more of this in the coming months and years, down to the convenience of not having to travel.

3.   PPE for everyone

Cruise lines, restaurants, retail and hospitality industries are all preparing for a strict health and safety dress code. As they are serving food and interacting with people in close proximity they will be required to wear gloves and face masks. This is already common practice in Eastern cultures, but it might take some getting used to in the UK.

We will likely see a similar uniform enforced on exhibitors and venue employees. Despite capped capacity, there will still be several people interacting with each other and personal protective equipment could help to keep staff, exhibitors and visitors safe.

Exhibitors, food vendors and other staff may be required to wear gloves and/or face masks for the duration of the event. There will be stricter regulations on cleaning the facilities, including the use of stronger chemicals and more regular cleaning of key touchpoints.

The overarching aim will be to create a safer environment for everyone. Although this may take some getting used to, the long term benefits will be rewarding for exhibitors and the exhibition industry. 

Conclusion

At the moment these are only predictions. Our best guess at what the industry is going to look like when life starts again. But hopefully, it is enough to give you hope. Our industry will survive and we will see each other again! Albeit looking slightly differently with our designer face masks and smelling like anti-bacterial hand gel.

Businesses will have a chance to reap the benefits of live marketing once more. And life will return to normal. Until then, stay safe.

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