While many offices are returning to business as usual, the events industry are sat twiddling their thumbs waiting for Boris Johnson’s next announcement. Unlike bars, hairdressers, restaurant, hotels, bingo halls and the number of other industries that have been allowed to reopen – we have yet to receive a date for the reopening of trade shows.
We understand why. The UK is coming out of hibernation. They need things to do and places to go after the lockdown. But what about our businesses? In this article, we’ll tell you why live event marketing is one of the best marketing strategies to be followed post-pandemic.
Trade shows and B2B events have been growing in popularity year-on-year since my company, Quadrant2Design, started designing, manufacturing and building exhibition stands twenty years ago. Events are getting bigger and bigger. There are more exhibitors. More visitors. And more opportunities to generate leads, meet big players in your industry and close deals.
Obviously, with the ban on mass gatherings, businesses have been unable to showcase their products at B2B events. But exhibition organisers haven’t just been sat at home waiting for a restart date. They’ve been working hard to make sure these events offer more value to businesses who will need extra support post-covid.
We’ve got a pretty good idea of what trade shows will look like when they reopen. Reading through the government advice, seeing how it has been implemented across other businesses and watching other countries reopen their event sector has made it possible for us to start planning again. Even without a restart date, we know that any business who chooses to exhibit post-covid will have a more successful show than ever before.
Predicting the New Normal for Trade Shows
I can’t pretend I’m not confused by the decision to reopen hospitality without giving the events industry a restart date. Events contribute £70 billion a year to the UK economy, with the vast majority of that coming from B2B events like trade shows.
Event organisers have the power to control crowds. And trade shows have the power to kick start business. The hospitality industry, although I am not denying its size and value, is much less able to do this.
That being said, we have been able to predict what the next generation of exhibitions will look like thanks to the regulations in place for the hospitality industry. Social distancing is still very much a thing, however, the distance has changed from 2m to a 1m plus suggestion. This makes it much easier for our industry to reopen in the UK.
Also, many countries across Europe, including Germany, Spain and Italy, have reopened their exhibition centres for business. Separating trade shows from the banned mass gatherings has been a step forward, and one that we are keen to see put in place in the UK. It has allowed us to gain insight into what our trade shows will look like when we are given a restart date.
Finally, over the last three months, many businesses have been operating under the strict guidance of the government. Supermarkets are allowing fewer people through their doors and putting one way systems in place. Hospitals only allow one person from each household inside. And protective face masks must be worn if you are using public transport.
Three months of watching businesses reopen safely, both in our country and in others, has told us everything we need to know about reopening our event sector. We’re ready. And you should be to.
Three Reasons your Business should continue Trade Show Marketing Post-Covid
With everything that we’ve witnessed over the last three months, we think exhibitions will be able to provide more value to attendees than ever before. Despite the long pause, an international survey shows that most marketers expect to be reengaging with events within three to four months. Restarting events is just one of the ways that you can start to strengthen your brand value – here is why.
The three biggest changes that you’re likely to witness include:
- Capped Visitor Numbers
- Health Screening
- Virtual Surge or Hybrid Events
So how is it that these big changes are able to improve your success rates at an exhibition?
Capped Visitor Numbers
For years, exhibition organisers have used the number of people that attend their event as a key metric to sell floor space. It would make sense for you to think that by limiting the number of people in the hall, that trade show won’t help you grow your business.
That’s not entirely true.
More people crammed into one hall creates a bustling, stressful atmosphere. Delegates aren’t free to roam the hall as they end up ferried down compact aisles. This sort of environment doesn’t encourage relationship building. Reducing the number of visitors in the hall creates an ideal atmosphere to meet, connect and get to know prospects.
With fewer people in the hall, event organisers will have to find another way to promote their event and sell floor space. We’re expecting them to reserve tickets for premium guests. Before, at a busy trade show, a large percentage of the visitors were made up of time-wasters. There were school trips, interns and staff just looking for a day out of the office.
The capped visitor numbers will force event organisers to become extremely selective. Tickets will only be given to individuals with buying power or influence who have demonstrated the intent to find a new supplier. And you’ll have a better chance to talk to them without the busy aisles distracting you.
Capped visitor numbers are nothing to fear at all. You’re ROI is about to skyrocket.
As we have seen across Asia and Europe, additional health screening will be put in place before large groups of people will be allowed to attend events. These safety measures may be enforced or it could be the decision of the event organiser or venue.
There is a range of ways that this could affect your business and your event. In most cases, the purpose of additional screening will be to keep staff, exhibitors and visitors safe. As an added benefit to you, there is likely to be higher visitor confidence in events that do have extra measures in place.
The additional health checks that we have seen so far include:
- Gloves and face masks
- Hand sanitiser stations
- Additional cleaning of key shared areas
- Temperature scanning at the entrance
- Enforced testing for attendees – no negative, no ticket
In the UK we have no confirmed regulations, but we are expecting to see some or all of these health screening methods put in place before our industry can reopen.
Virtual Surge or Hybrid Events
Virtual events were a thing before covid. The cancellation of mass events has driven many of our exhibitions online. This has been great news for the virtual event industry, however, many businesses are sceptical about the benefits. Live events allow you to meet people face-to-face and build real relationships. Digital events can’t do that.
Although virtual events will become more popular post-covid, they will never replace live event marketing.
With that being said, there are certain elements of your trade show that you should expect to move online. There is a high chance that you won’t be allowed to hand out promotional goods or marketing literature. You should plan to replace this with a digital brochure that you can send out after the show.
Other elements of your next event may move online as well. The registration and entry process, already partly virtual, will transition to a fully-automated online process. There also might be a push for visitors to book appointments with exhibitors, rather than walking onto their exhibition stand for a quick chat. This will be done via an online booking platform.
So although you don’t have to worry about showcasing your products at a virtual event anytime soon, you do need to think about how your events work and what digital elements you may need to introduce.
The exhibition industry will return and you’ll be able to showcase your product at live events before you know it. These are just three of the reasons that we think you’ll find more value in the next generation of trade shows. There are definitely more!
Good luck with the next few months. We know it’s not going to be easy, but with our feet still firmly on the ground, it is good to see some movement out there again. Until then, stay positive and keep moving forward!
We’ll see you on the trade show floor.