What is the impact of the corona crisis on trade shows?
What is the impact of the corona crisis on trade shows? What do you need to know as a fair visitor, exhibitor or stand builder?
Fortunately, trade fairs are allowed again. And they are created safely for visitors and exhibitors, of course in compliance with the regulations of the official bodies.
But are trade fairs moving on with “business as usual”? Are they back to normal?
In order to guarantee the safety of visitors, exhibitors, stand constructors and others involved, the necessary measures have been taken at trade fairs. Appropriate measures for both, visitors, and exhibitors. And as long as Corona is not fully under control, I expect it will stay this way.
But what exactly has changed?
In this article I will list all important considerations for you. So that you know exactly what you need to take into account. I divided them into 3 parts:
1. What has changed for you as a visitor to a trade fair?
2. What changes for you when you participate in a trade fair as an exhibitor?
3. How are exhibition stands / stand constructions different than before the Corona crisis?
Things you need to know if you are going to visit a trade fair:
It's great that you're planning to visit a trade fair. Nowhere else do you get such a good impression of developments, trends, products, companies, and the people behind them as at a trade fair. A fair is an experience as well as an important meeting point for people. This was once again demonstrated in a recent study.
When you’re at a trade fair as a visitor, you will immediately notice that a number of things are different. No game changers, but things that definitely need to be taken into account. These are:
It was always possible to register in advance for trade fairs. Now it is mandatory. Organizers want to know even more than before about who is coming. No access without pre-registration.
- Questions about your health
When you register yourself, you may be asked to answer questions about your health. By doing so, organisers want to exclude risks and guarantee safety.
At some fairs, organisers work with so-called timeslots. In this way, visitors are divided over the various days or parts of the day in order to avoid peak traffic. This is necessary as it is particularly difficult to stick to social distancing rules during these peak times.
- 1.5 metres
Obviously, you will have to comply with the 1.5 metre distancing rule at the fair. In England, the rule even asks for 2 metres. Exhibition organisers and the managers of the exhibition halls have done everything in their power to prevent too many people being able to stand together. You will notice this immediately upon entering, but also with the catering, toilets, seminar rooms and of course on the exhibition floor itself. Crowd management and hygiene measures have the highest priority at trade fairs.
- Aisles and walkways
To guarantee the 1.5 metre distance, visitors will be more "steered" through the aisles of the fair. Aisles have been split in two and a walking direction has been defined. The middle of the aisle may not be used, so that there is automatically a distance between exhibition visitors. Different colours of flooring indicate where visitors can walk. Aisles will also be wider than previously at many trade fairs.
- Disinfection displays and stations
At the entrance you will be asked to disinfect your hands. Disinfection displays or stations are available for this purpose. Disinfectants are also available on the exhibition floor. These are made available by the fair organisation, but you will also find them on many stands provided by the exhibitors.
- Health check
Although this is not the case at all trade fairs, you may be scanned for body temperature upon entry.
When it comes to food, the hygiene guidelines will be different. Please note that only pre-packed food and snacks are available.
- Face coverings
The rules differ from country to country or region to region. At some fairs you don't have to wear a face covering at all, at other fairs you only have to wear one when entering. However, there are also trade fairs where everyone must wear a face covering on the floor. Make sure to ask about this prior to your visit, so you don’t come across any surprises.
Things that will change for you as an exhibitor:
- Possibly fewer visitors
The fact that fairs will be safe does not mean that visitors and exhibitors will automatically feel safe. The number of visitors will probably be lower than before the Corona outbreak, especially at fairs with an international audience. This is very unfortunate. But to what extent it will impact you achieving your trade fair objectives is still unclear.
The first surveys among exhibitors at trade fairs that have already taken place confirm that exhibitors have made fewer contacts from their participation in the fair. But what you also hear a lot is that the quality of these contacts is higher.
- Less quantity, more quality
So, it seems that the visitors who do come to the fair are more motivated and interested: Fewer day visitors and more buyers. Less visitors having a look around and more that are actually buying. And that's exactly what most exhibitors want in their visitors.
With fewer visitors, you could conclude that you have more time with each visitor. However, that is questionable. If there are timeslots for visitors, they will have less time to go everywhere and see everything. Therefore, visitors will most likely determine their route in advance and plan which stands they want to visit.
- Good pre-show marketing is even more important
Good pre-show marketing, invitations, and agreements to meet with customers and potential buyers was always a good idea. However, now the need for this is even stronger. So, make appointments in advance with customers and potential buyers at your stand. This avoids peak traffic, saves your visitors time, and guarantees you as an exhibitor that you will not miss out on customers.
- Exhibitions become more result-oriented
Fairs will be more formal as long as Corona is not under control. Fewer day-trippers, fewer people that are just having a look around, less sociability and therefore more focus on results. Fairs will be different but with the necessary adjustments not necessarily less successful.
- Trade fair communication will be even more important
You’ll need a clear message for the stand so that visitors immediately know who you are, what you do and why you are interesting - I call that the Key Exhibition Message of your stand – this has always been super important. But now it is a dire necessity. Visitors have less time, are guided more (one-way traffic) and are more focused. Do they walk past your stand? Then they probably won't come back, and you've lost them. Maybe for good.
- Business cards and scanners
Handing over business cards and leaflets is not a good idea for the time being. Although I personally am not a fan of "badge scanners", they do offer a solution. As scanning badges at 1.5 meters from the visitor is difficult, visitors can now scan their badges themselves at your stand.
- Disinfection of your exhibition stand
Of course, you need to ensure a safe and hygienic stand. Therefore, disinfect tables, counters, tablets, and touchscreens on a regular basis.
- What about the costs per trade fair contact and costs per lead?
The CPL or costs per lead is for many marketeers and managers an important measuring point for the success of a trade show. A "lead" is a contact with a possible buying intention. It is not just a trade show contact. An exhibition contact is a contact you have with a visitor at your exhibition stand. A lead is always a contact, but a contact is not always a lead.
Quantity versus quality?
During my last training course, one of the participants told me that the management of her company mainly looks at the number of trade show contacts. And that the number of contacts is used as a measure of success, but also as a basis for determining the budget for future trade fairs. Well then, it is not surprising that booth managers focus more on quantity than quality.
That is never a good idea, but it is even more difficult at current trade fairs.
The costs per trade fair contact could rise considerably now that there are fewer visitors. But that says nothing about the costs per lead. And it really is the leads that most (B2B) exhibitors are looking for at a trade fair.
For exhibitors, the uncertainty surrounding their participation in an exhibition has become greater. Mainly, because many exhibitions have already been postponed or even cancelled. The fear of preparing an exhibition participation that might not take place is certainly present for marketeers. And visitor numbers have also become less predictable.
Therefore, it is not surprising that exhibitors are trying to reduce the direct costs of their participation. For many, smaller stands will be the solution. But the costs of exhibition stands and stand constructions are also under the microscope.
This also reignites the discussion about the reusability of stands. Stands that are designed modularly can be reused, which significantly reduces costs. Also, parts of the stand can sometimes be used in the company after the fair, for example in the showroom, which makes the investment more economical.
What will change in stand constructions, and what do you have to take into account when building a stand (or are having it made)?
Back in April I published an article about how we execute the "1.5-meter exhibition stand". Now, 5 months later, we know even better what such a stand must comply with. Here is an overview of the most important points of attention for trade fair stands and stand construction:
- Stands are more spacious.
By that, I do not necessarily mean larger. But in terms of layout and 'routing', they are designed to help the visitors and your staff to keep a distance of 1.5 metres.
- Plexi screens on reception desks.
Just like in shops, it is possible to work with plexi screens at information desks or reception desks. Obviously, this is not the most elegant and inviting way to welcome your customers, but I think everyone is quite used to it by now.
- Disinfection station(s) on your stand.
As an exhibitor you can't do without. You need to give your visitors but also your staff the opportunity to disinfect their hands.
- Displays with social guidelines and hygiene regulations.
This allows you to draw attention once again to the hygiene regulations on your stand, such as the 1.5-metre distance rule.
- No closed meeting rooms.
Sitting with several people in small rooms is a no-go. This also applies to meeting rooms on stands. If you want to hold meetings with clients and visitors, create an open space with your stand builder where you can talk to visitors quietly but still follow the 1.5 metre rule.
- Forget about the bowls with biscuits, snacks, and sweets.
Bowls of biscuits, crisps, sweets, nuts, and other snacks are no longer possible. The same goes for coffee. Offering bottles of water or lemonade is a good alternative. Think of bottles printed with your company name and logo. You can also consider having packaged biscuits, peppermints or sweets made with your own logo.
- Clear marking and signing at larger trade fair stands
In order to keep visitors at larger exhibition stands at a sufficient distance from each other, you can use markings on the floor, displays and, if necessary, poles with ribbons.
- Larger tables
Bar tables - usually with a diameter of 60 or 80 cm - are too small. Replace them for fewer, but larger tables that automatically guarantee that you follow the 1.5 metre rule.
As long as the COVID-19 virus is not under control, trade fairs will be different. The dynamics will be different and the experience for visitors will be different as well. Different, however, does not mean less successful.
The fact that trade fairs have their place in the marketing mix of companies has often been proven. Live communication contributes to a willingness to buy and it creates a brand experience, as the most recent research shows. For visitors, trade fairs are the place to be to meet companies and suppliers, and more importantly the people behind them. For exhibitors, the medium of trade fairs is one of the best marketing tools to get in touch with clients and potential clients, to promote their brand and to strengthen their market position.
In this article, I have informed you as well as I possibly can, about my experience and up-to-date knowledge of the regulations concerning COVID-19. As you can understand, however, these regulations are constantly changing. Therefore, when you are reading this, the above information may no longer be up to date or may have changed due to new regulations.