As we craft our upcoming exhibit program in recovery mode, we have asked some of our partners to share their insights about how our exhibit programs can be successful.
First up is Jeff Kidd, VP Client Services at Bright Pipe.
As the face-to-face industry reopens, social distancing is one of the top safety concerns of show organizers. . A working theory in the trajectory of industry recovery is that regional shows will lead the way, which will undoubtedly lead to a proliferation of smaller and linear spaces for exhibitors. The event environment arises from that laundry list of recommendations and the preferences and concerns of the market; we can learn a lot from the type of thinking that goes into planning a smaller space.
A safe event is the goal, and show management will undertake whatever measures they feel will promote a successful show within the guidance from the CDC, the state, the city, and the venue.
Doing More with Less
All signs point to the beginnings of a recovery for the trade show and event industry. The continued expansion of the vaccination program combined with additional knowledge of how we can manage the spread of the virus has empowered us with information we can use to begin the journey back safely. However, our path back to ‘normal’ still has some hurdles we will need to overcome, and we all need to prepare ourselves that ‘normal’ might look very different when this is truly over with.
First Steps: Regional Meetings
The immediate impact to our industry seems to be a trend to regional events. These smaller meetings have reduced floor plans and thus smaller booth spaces. In addition, many companies have not yet relaxed their corporate travel restrictions, choosing to err on the side of caution and protect their staff from any possible virus exposure. While vaccinations are now available to most, many are still reluctant to take advantage of the protections these provide.
The heart of the slow return to events centers on safety concerns. COVID-19 is still, after all, a very new virus, and it takes years of research to understand and craft bulletproof medical solutions for pathogens like this. We cannot condemn anyone who is still uncomfortable with travel or being in large groups of people. Our health and safety must be a priority.
How can an event manager tackle the combined challenges of smaller spaces, smaller audiences, reduced travel, and hypersensitivity to safety? Despite all these obstacles, this industry is still about face-to-face connections. People want to engage with people. The good news is that humans are creatures of habit and, in the right environment, a quick return to direct attendee-staff encounters is possible. However, before we talk about going to the show floor, I would be remiss not to mention that the fundamentals matter.
The Power of Pre-Show Promotion
Smaller audiences and smaller spaces mean that our pre-show marketing efforts are critical now, more than ever. We are still throwing a party, and we need to send out invitations and make sure people attend. Consider revisiting strategies that have had a rebound in the year since the pandemic began. Direct mail marketing, for example, has seen a doubling of response rates in the last year. That makes total sense – people are at home, and most marketers are sending emails, so the actual mailbox tends to not have much in it these days. A nicely designed marketing piece stands out! So look for opportunities like this to plan and promote your event wisely regardless of the physical footprint you choose to deploy.
Another Look at Those Regional Shows: Great Things Come in Small Packages
A great strategy to ensure a consistent and effective presence at events is to focus on the things we can count on. Every show organizer offers some form of linear booth space. These areas tend to have a lower cost for entry, so any hiccups, like a decision to cancel or go virtual, aren’t tied to a huge part of your marketing budget. These smaller booth spaces have traditionally been viewed as the areas where the little companies are until they can one day grow up and have a ‘real’ booth,
These little spaces are precisely the show floor areas where you can deploy a truly memorable brand activation. Imagine a phone line populated with black crows, and in the center is one majestic red Macaw. That one Macaw really stands out, doesn’t it?
Here are some reasons you should consider spreading your wings to book that linear booth space:
- A linear booth still can deliver significant, impactful brand messages.
- Efficient modular systems create plenty of room for social distancing.
- Innovative technologies such as LED video walls can easily be deployed in these spaces.
- Non-contact interactive solutions exist, allowing attendees to engage with content safely.
- Staffing can be done with a local brand ambassador; your staff stays safely at home.
- On-demand experts can engage with attendees via telepresence solutions.
You can make a big colorful splash in an area of the floor that usually contains pop-ups and skirted tables. Display technologies and non-contact interactive solutions are available to make the experience engaging and memorable. A single brand ambassador can provide a smiling face to engage attendees, and your expert can easily connect via a virtual call to answer any questions attendees might ask. Save on space, save on staffing, save on travel, interact safety, and connect face-to-face. These smaller spaces can check all the same boxes that most think only can happen in a larger island exhibit.
We Are Only Human
Every time we touch our customers, we generate a deeper sense of trust with our brand. Being on the show floor is important; it shows attendees we care about their interests and passions. Showing up lets the market know we are there to support them and their industries, especially in these uncertain times. We are connecting with real people who have the same fears and desires we all have. Our goal should be to give them what they want and what they deserve. In other words, to:
- Create meaningful, face-to-face connections.
- Make an effort to ensure social distancing and demonstrate that safety is a top concern.
- Be creative with pre-event marketing.
- Combine human touch with innovative technology.
- Make sure attendees add us to their ‘must-see’ list of exhibitors.
- Make your presence memorable with your new less is more attitude to surprise and delight attendees.
A 10 X 10 linear space can deliver on each one of these goals for our event program. In addition, the team at Access TCA and BrightPipe can help you stand out in the crowd, to be that One Macaw who gets the attention of the attendees and is remembered long after the event is over.