It’s no secret that the Covid-19 outbreak has resulted in a damaging economic impact to the British economy, but perhaps none more so than the exhibition industry. After all, an exhibition with no delegates or visitors is somewhat redundant.
The UK Government has set out an initiative to get the wheels of the economy back in motion again, and as elements of other similar sectors – namely hospitality, begin to re-open, the likelihood is that the market for exhibitions will follow suit in due course.
But just what will the ‘new normal’ look like, and how will this likely impact the way that shows are run and managed?
Display Stand Production
A show is nothing without exhibition stands– after all, they’re the marketing collateral that businesses use to promote their brands. But the production of display stands, pop-up banners and other materials has and will continue to change.
Following the Government’s guidelines, suppliers will need to ensure that they’re protecting their staff and ensuring that all production and manufacturing is consistent with the medical advice given. This will involve staff keeping a safe distance from one another, as well as ensuring that the proper hygiene requirements are in place.
At the Event
Again, it is the organizer’s responsibility to keep the delegates and visitors safe, so it should be expected that the ‘new normal’ certainly won’t be the same as the period prior to lockdown.
One should expect to see stringent one-way systems, hand sanitizer upon arrival and at regular intervals, as well as a lack of the usual break out and networking areas. It’s likely that face masks will be a requirement for everyone.
Furthermore, it’s likely that any display stands will need to be erected in good time – likely taking a little longer than before. As such, delegates should expect access to venues far in advance compared to previously, given the reduced number of people who are likely to be in the supply chain at any one time.
Lastly, we should expect to see far less visitors than before. Delegates and their exhibition stands will be spread out to a greater degree than before and as a result, it’s likely that less visitors will be allowed access to the show.
Post Covid Exhibitions: behaviour
We recently did a piece outlining some of the lessons that may have been taken onboard from event organizers during the COVID-19 outbreak and how they may future prepare events with this in mind – but as either a business that represents themselves at these events or an attendee, you may be wondering what to expect in changes that may be seen moving forward as well as changes in behavior that may be expected of you whilst at an event.
Masks and greetings
Wearing a mask all over may become commonplace and if you’re going to an event or trade show where lots of people are expected to be, it’s probably a safe bet that you’re going to be wearing a mask in the near future. Whether this will be common far into the future is unlikely, however if you’re feeling under the weather you may also be expected to wear a mask in that situation on a more permanent basis. Similarly for greetings, at first handshaking may be out of the question for some as elbow and fist bumps become expected – this will likely be one of the first behaviors to return to normal, but it’s important not to be offended if someone doesn’t want to shake your hand as it is likely a precautionary measure.
Goodie Bags and Media
You may be accustomed to receiving a lot of handouts and material during your trips – whilst digital media and big display banners are likely to remain in place, you may be less likely to get any handouts in the short term – think flyers, demonstration pieces, or little goodies that some stands may give to you. This may be because supply is tough or just reducing the risk through handing pieces out – this will be a practice sure to return quickly, but it may take a little time to fully return to what was once normal.
A hands off approach
Much like greetings and goodie bags, one change that may be expected is to keep your distance in the short term – barriers distancing attendees from exhibition stands and spacers to ensure that guests are kept apart from each other may become a temporary fixture – this may become especially true in the more elaborate displays which would typically have a larger amount of foot traffic with very tactile areas that encourage people to get involved with the display – again possibly a short term change here but certainly for the time being it’s more likely guests will be expected to remain respectful and keep a little distance to ensure that any future visitors are kept safe.
A move to digital
As with the previous post, it is likely that some events may look to move to a more permanent digital representation through streamed events online, or even just to the use of digital media over more traditional displays and exhibition stands. This had been considered a more natural progression as many events had already started moving this way, but the current global crisis may accelerate this process and lead to streamed events being common.
The go ahead for non essential business in the UK has been granted for June, but many of these events may not return for a little time following – when they do however, these are just some of the changes that may be expected in the short term especially, but they may also be a possibility in the long term – keep these in mind if you’re intending on visiting a trade show or exhibition soon so your expectations are also measured.
We’re all looking forward to the exhibition market re-opening. But one thing’s for sure – the new normal is going to take some getting used to. Could we even see exhibitions taking place outside, weather permitting? If so, you can check out our outdoor banner stands here.