What will trade shows be like after Covid?

From the largest and most anticipated to the smaller niche exhibitions, trade show events all over the world have been cancelled, postponed or even conducted virtually in recent months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While some might regard these events as non-essential, for other businesses their annual trade show schedule is the backbone of their sales and growth strategy, and that means a lot of uncertainty about the future.

Trade shows are places where buyers of everything from passenger jets to face creams can browse and compare products, and where sellers court the attention of their customers in one noisy, exciting and competitive environment. Trade shows are also usually crowded, indoor events where exhibitors and attendees, often travelling internationally, interact in close quarters. As such, it’s clear that the industry will be seriously affected by coronavirus, and that big changes lie ahead for those that rely on exhibitions for their business growth.

So, will trade shows still be possible post-Covid? And if so, how will they have to change?

Some trade exhibitions made the decision to go virtual to prevent cancellation of their events during the coronavirus lockdown. This has led to some concern that bricks and mortar events may be a thing of the past – but the reality is that while digital industries can adapt easily to a digital trade show model, many other trade shows exist specifically because customers need to see and experience products in person. Regardless of whether your product is digital or physical, there’s also the fact that in crowded markets with endless choice, it’s often the relationships between people and brands that drives sales, and trade shows are hugely valuable when it comes to building these connections.

The more likely outcome is that trade shows will eventually resume with many of the new protocols we are already seeing in other industries. Physical distancing will mean larger spaces between stands. Exhibitions that previously used smaller venues may need to relocate to larger buildings and large trade shows that used to fit in one hall may need to find a venue with two spaces so they can spread out.

The number of people permitted in the exhibition hall may also be limited, requiring staggered admission times or even individual slots for attendees. The upshot of this may well be that exhibitors experience a much more controlled footfall, which could make it easier to connect with more potential customers.

Information will be key to the successful reopening of trade events, and there are opportunities here for printers. Even with physical distancing measures in place, hygiene will be paramount, and event organisers will be looking for prominent solutions including mobile displays for information about hand hygiene, social distancing, and use of facilities like public restrooms and cafeterias. Freestanding hand sanitization will also be of key importance, with many exhibitors likely to include these facilities within their individual trade stands as well as exhibition organisers, and indeed venues, having their own independent equipment and supplies for safeguarding employees and visitors.

Like other industries, trade shows face challenges – but they are also resilient, with huge capacity to change. Contact Frontline today to discuss your future trade show strategy and how together, we can help business exhibitors to adapt: sales@frontline-na.com