The question is being asked by businesses across the country and indeed across the world - when will things return to normal? The exhibition industry specifically is at an increased risk of being affected for a longer period of time as the nature of the events require larger numbers of people to come together, often in close proximity, which is very much against the guidelines being given for keeping safe. It has already been made extremely clear that social distancing measures will likely be around for the foreseeable future - a stark message from the British prime minister suggested that for as long as there is no vaccine available, many of the measures currently under review may be here to stay for the much longer term - luckily there are a number of options available to event organizers that may help the exhibition industry weather the storm.
One option that has been rising in popularity for some industries, and something that is looking to be a short term solution for many is within digital events - now this doesn’t solve the issue for trade shows and certain exhibitions, but for now it does seem that for tech reveals and announcements, digital shows streamed live could be the future for that one sector of the exhibition industry for some time yet.
For other events in the industry, such as trade shows for example, the good news may yet be some time away - as mentioned the current social distancing measures put in place may be here to stay, and it has already been announced that the UK may not allow a mass reopening of businesses until at least July which is still a tentative date depending on the changes in current numbers - we may not see a return for many in the exhibition industry until much later in this year, or even in to the new year. This spells some bad news for many who rely on the industry - those within print who rely on a steady flow of banner and exhibition printing are among those at risk as the events struggle to recover, but also the smaller businesses that rely on the foot traffic and exposure through these events may be at risk of falling under too.
One thing is being increasingly clear, however - the exhibition industry is perhaps changing for the longer term and any outlook at a quick recovery is unlikely - but there is a silver lining. A lot of support is being offered for smaller businesses, and whilst there are many falling through due to the coronavirus there is also a very high possibility that coming through the other side will provide an opportunity for many new businesses to start up and take the spaces left behind - this big surge in new businesses may help prompt a kick start in the exhibition industry as trade shows aim to ramp up again and networking events adjust their strategy to allow an opportunity for people to come together. It still does of course remain likely that many events will move to some form of a digital format, and it may also move networking in to a digital environment with tools such as Zoom providing a way for many to communicate - it’s going to be a long road to recovery, and until numbers settle and any chance of a second wave of infection spreading has passed, there’s no clear way to know how the exhibition industry will recover, but there is at least positive outlook with all the support being given to keep the businesses which the industry relies on ticking over.