Event organisers have been frantically coming together to find a solution to physical events. For a while we were all talking about digital events. There were whispers amongst industry experts, some who thought our field would thrive online and others who saw no point in trying. Now it has become clear that industry events will be back. But not without some essential changes.
Health and safety is the number one priority at the moment, no matter what industry you are working in. Social distancing protocols are being followed worldwide which raised concerns about whether or not we would see events return.
Mass gatherings were banned in the early days of the pandemic. Slowly but surely we are seeing restrictions lift, allowing people to meet individuals from other households and enjoy outdoor activities together.
Despite lifting restrictions, there were still questions to be asked about the possibility of hosting mass gatherings such as B2B events. The purpose of an exhibition is finding new businesses, products and customers which typically involves an element of face-to-face communication.
That’s why industry-specific events are so popular. Businesses have a unique opportunity to position themselves in front of a highly targeted audience and prove that they’re human in a physical environment. No other marketing strategy offers these unique benefits.
It will come as no surprise to you the great relief event organisers, venues, suppliers, exhibitors and all the other businesses involved in the supply chain felt when Germany announced that they would not be classing exhibitions as mass gatherings. We could see exhibition venues hosting events again in the next few weeks.
Germany is the exhibiting capital of the world. Globally recognised venues such as Messe Dusseldorf and Hanover Fairground host international events such as CeBIT, attracting visitors from all over the world. When they decided to prioritise reopening trade shows, we knew our industry was going to survive.
Since that announcement, UFI has released a global framework outlining how we can reopen B2B events post the emergence from Covid-19. Recognising the beneficial economic and social factors, the framework suggests that each event is assessed according to its type – rather than a capped total number of people.
Of course, there are lots of things that must be considered. One way systems, queues, hand sanitizing stations and temperature monitoring are all included on the list. One of the biggest changes will be for the visitors who will be given a time slot to arrive and may be turned away from the event if they aren’t deemed to be in a role of seniority.
Given the current situation in supermarkets, these changes won’t come as a huge surprise. If anything, exhibiting under these conditions may be more pleasurable than previous events where organisers desperately crammed attendees into a hall. The question you should be asking is this:
What are the Exhibition Stands of the Future going to look like?
Gone are the days of branded freebies, marketing literature and handshakes. Quadrant2Design have been imagining an all-new exhibition stand. A stand that encourages social distancing whilst getting your products in front of as many people as possible. And this is what it is going to look like.
Firstly, everyone was right when they said that events were going to have to become a virtual affair. But not in the way that they thought. Without handshaking, lanyards, marketing literature and freebies the way that we interact with delegates is going to have to change.
There will be an increased need for integrated audio-visual elements on every exhibition stand. Digital screens and tablets may be the most effective way to provide product demonstrations, collect data and even host virtual meetings.
Secondly, the need to create a pop-up environment will be incremental. With one way systems and 2-meter social distancing policies in place, visitors will not interact with exhibition stands in the same way. Why would they stand in a queue, following the floor markings, to go and read a pull-up banner or wall poster?
Exhibition stand suppliers will have to get more creative when it comes to the design, manufacturing and installation of every exhibit. Each stand will become a mini-event in its own right. Visitors can move through the exhibition stand, looking at products and descriptions whilst immersing themselves in your brand. There is going to be an increased need for creativity.
Finally, the way we interact with each other is going to change. No more booth babes or overly chirpy salesmen targeting vulnerable members of the crowd. This simply won’t be an option. Instead, visitors will have to approach you if they want more information.
One concept of this shows an exhibition stand with a reception area. Delegates approach the reception area to book a slot with one of the members of staff. Everything is done in a controlled, sanitized environment with plastic sheets separating the sales team from the visitors. Essentially, recreating an office environment on the exhibition floor.
And that is our prediction for the future of exhibition stands. Currently, we know that sanitization policies and social distancing are going to be key to relaunching any events. As for exhibition stands, we’ll just have to wait and see.