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Lessons Learned In The Exhibition Industry During COVID-19

4th Jun 2020

The spread of the coronavirus has been a valuable learning experience for businesses across the world as they have had to learn how to cope with changing guidance or temporarily suspend activities to line up with this guidance - now it seems many are on the path to recovery, but the prudent are starting to prepare for the future now social distancing has become the norm. This is increasingly true within the exhibition industry as it requires a lot of people to come together, and a lot of close interaction. But what lessons, and preparations have the exhibition industry learned?

  • Insurance matters - Although a big event would be unlikely to skimp on insurance costs, many insurers would have excluded communicable diseases from their cover policies - but as we’ve seen through some big event organizers having this cover has been such a big benefit - although it may be difficult in future to secure a policy with this cover, and it may cost a little extra, but it may save the costs that may have been lost through cancellations.
  • Preparing a Plan B - It’s extremely likely that many events organizers already place a contingency at the very top of their list of things to prepare before an event, however moving forward in to 2021 there is no doubt that all will have a disaster plan in place for events such as these - defining cancellation plans and contracts, new terms on payments, and other structures in place to ensure that if something like this does happen again, the disruption isn’t felt so widely.
  • Technology as a cornerstone - It isn’t a far reach to say that the majority of event organizers utilize technology and digital platforms in a large way to promote these events, however more traditional forms of event media through banners and exhibition stands through business attendance and public appearances being a go to, the spread of the coronavirus may lead to a surge in event organizers choosing to live stream an event digitally instead. Whilst this may hurt a core part of the industry, it does serve as a form of protection for events like this.
  • Health and Safety, and visitor etiquette - We’ve already been advised on changes on behavior - bump elbows rather than shake hands, stay six feet apart, wearing masks - some of these may remain as a social norm once the world returns to business as usual, where others may return to how they were before. Moving forward it may be up to the event organizers to make very clear just what is expected of guests and what rules remain in place to keep visitors safe.
  • Preparing for demand - Trade shows and exhibitions are filled with small and emerging businesses - whilst many may not survive, others will prop up to take their place. It may be difficult to predict how the market will flex back into position, but it will be the responsibility of event organizers to manage this change, for better or for worse. Whilst it is in the interest for levels to return to how they were - across all industries - this may not be the case, and organizers will need to be prepared to measure this change.

The coming months will certainly be a struggle, but it’s important to take the lessons learned from what has happened and implement them into plans and strategies going forward - it may change how the exhibition industry behaves, but also to how those who would usually attend these events also behave and plan their appearances at different events moving forward.