It’s easy enough to get caught in the checklist approach to tradeshow exhibit design. This week’s quick video goes over some thoughts on how to avoid that, but still make sure the exhibit has all that it needs:
In March and April of this year, when tradeshow organizers realized the gravity of the pandemic and how it would be affecting upcoming shows, many of them “postponed” the shows. I say “postponed” in quotes because many believed that whatever issues the COVID-19 pandemic caused; things would be back to normal in a few months.
For example, I happened to be on an airplane waiting to take off from Portland on the morning of March 2, when the email came in: Natural Products Expo West was off, postponed TFN. In the next few weeks, an effort was made to reschedule the show for early summer. Then the pandemic got worse. The show was canceled for good.
The organizers tried to focus on Natural Products Expo East in September. Nope, that fell by the wayside as well. As did CES, NAB, and many other shows. Some shows went virtual, others hoped for the best for a live show sometime next year.
Now Natural Products Expo West has moved the 2021 show from early March to late May of next year. Anyone willing to lay money on the show actually taking place?
In random conversations and email exchanges, and in seeing some survey results, the tradeshow and event industry has a wide range of opinions on when things might get back to “normal,” yes, in quotes, because we don’t know what normal will look like again, or when. Some companies are working remotely, hoping to get back to the office by the beginning of 2021. Others are putting it off until the third or fourth quarter of 2021.
In early September, Exhibitor Magazine revealed some data based on surveys of tradeshow world suppliers and exhibitors. For example, 2/3 of those surveyed said it was unlikely, probably wouldn’t, or definitely wouldn’t return to shows rescheduled for 2020.
Company travel restrictions will still be in place at most companies into 2021. Lots of data there, and I’ll give you one more interesting tidbit: the later in the year the question was asked, the further companies pushed their plans back. In early September, most companies were looking at the second or third quarter of 2021 before they thought they’d be back on the tradeshow floor. View the full presentation here; it’s worth a look.
I mentioned on my podcast this week that the live music and entertainment industry is also severely impacted. Musicians, tech workers, roadies, support staff and more have been mostly idled. Think of entertainers on cruise ships, or in Cirque du Soleil (which has filed for bankruptcy), along with concert tours, jazz festivals, country fairs, art fairs, and more.
I believe we all know how bad it is and have a feeling it’ll continue for much longer than we ever thought it would, when the pandemic first came around.
Over the past few months, I have been thinking that once we get back to, let’s say 75 or 85% or “normal,” companies would start busting loose with big budgets and there would be lots of new projects and work for exhibit companies and related logistical support companies.
Now I’m not so sure. My gut feeling is that because this is going to keep going until deep into 2021, companies will be very hesitant to spend money and will be more than willing to just do modest changes on their current exhibit properties instead of investing in something new. I have nothing to base that on and hope I’m wrong.
And finally, when it comes to Virtual shows or tradeshow exhibits, my sense is that it has to really make sense for the company for them to invest in something like that: they need it only if they can use it a dozen or more times in the next year or so, and they strongly believe it will get them more good leads at a better cost-per-lead than traditional exhibiting. The jury is still out on that.
Hiring an exhibit house is a big task. It’s a commitment to a business relationship that, ideally, you’d like to keep in place for years. But everything must come to an end, and there may come a time when it makes sense to consider changing exhibit houses. Here’s my quick video that looks at ten situations that may warrant that consideration:
The use of virtual tradeshow exhibits may not be exploding, although my sense is that it is increasing. Some big tradeshows have gone completely virtual for the next year or so, maybe longer, depending on the depth and breadth of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Which leaves exhibitors in a bit of a quandary: what to do about virtual exhibits. Should you invest in one? Should you just wait out the pandemic and hope you can get back to live tradeshows in the next six to twelve months?
And if you are seriously considering a virtual exhibit, it’s important to consider all of the various things you can do in the exhibit. I’ve seen a few virtual exhibits lately, and there is a wide variety in the approach. Some exhibitors have chosen the simple, let’s-keep-the-cost-down approach. Others have tried to throw everything in but the kitchen sink.
As an aside, one exhibit maker I spoke with recently said that a recent client of theirs did a virtual exhibit and found that at the virtual tradeshow, they experienced a 700% increase in leads for a fraction of the cost of appearing at a live show. My eyes opened at that stat, and while it’s impressive, it’s likely not going to be a common experience for every virtual exhibitor. But it does demonstrate that there is a lot of potential in virtual tradeshows if you plan ane execute well.
Having said that, there are a number of ways to get engagement at virtual tradeshows. The first is crucial: make sure that potential visitors know about your virtual tradeshow exhibit so that they are prepared, put it on their calendar, and have expectations.
The second is to build the expectations and prepare for them by putting specific things in your virtual tradeshow booth that visitors want. Things they’ll respond to, interact with, and share with others.
From that starting point, the question remains: what should be in your virtual exhibit? There are many answers, and your company’s specific needs should help frame the answer. Here are a lot of the things, perhaps not all, that could go into your exhibit. Keep in mind that each piece will add to your overall cost, much like a 3D real world exhibit, and that each piece of content, such as videos or white papers or PDF reports, all will take time and money to create. Before finalizing your plan, create a budget based on all of the pieces you think are necessary to make your virtual tradeshow booth a success.
Here are a number of things you can and should consider:
- Product Demos
- A place to collect visitor’s contact information
- Download Center (PDFs, coupons, sales sheets, special reports, etc.)
- Archived video
- Live stream video
- Live chat
- Booth tour
- Schedule a meeting
- Learn about your company
- Learn about new products
- Give people the ability to share things on social media
- Steer people to your social media outlets
- Leave an audio or video message
No doubt if you put your mind to it, you can come up with more. What am I missing?
I’ve certainly blogged about this topic before. But things change, inside your company and outside in the events and tradeshow world. So I think it behooves any tradeshow manager to keep their eyes up and take note of changes in the exhibiting landscape. Here are few things rattling around in my brain:
Be aware of how other shows are unfolding in other countries. How are they dealing with protecting their exhibitors and visitors? It’s easy enough to find information on LinkedIn, especially if you follow fellow industry exhibitors. I see this type of information shared frequently and learned that a very large show was held in Europe lately. This means in some parts of the world, things are getting back to normal.
Know what’s happening with the shows you normally exhibit at. Are they planning to be all virtual next time around? Or do they have firm plans to be back in action at the convention center or hall where they usually have the show? Or maybe the third option: they just don’t know. The local convention center here in Salem is closed until further notice, but they have several groups on long-term contracts that want to come back once it’s okay. Some have smaller gatherings of less than a hundred (which might be okay under today’s guidelines); others expect hundreds, maybe more than a thousand. At this point, it’s hard to know when gatherings that large will be allowed.
Different states have different statuses. California, Nevada, Chicago, DC, NYC. They’re all different and all have different plans for getting back to larger shows. It may not make sense to spend a lot of time digging into each state’s specific plans, but just to be aware that what brings back large shows in Nevada may not be the same that brings them back in NYC or Chicago.
If your company goes to several shows a year, large, medium and small, would it make sense to have a ready-made virtual exhibit that can easily be adapted to fit the requirements of each show? Virtual exhibits are getting more popular, especially when exhibitors and show organizers have the understanding that even when (if) things return to “normal,” virtual exhibits can and probably will be a part of the marketing mix. Learn more about virtual exhibit in this Kevin Carty podcast interview, this Exhibitor Magazine webinar replay which includes a walk-through of the Canon virtual exhibit, and this blog post on what questions might come up around moving forward with a virtual exhibit.
Another thing to keep abreast of is how exhibitors and attendees are feeling about getting back to live events. This piece from TSNN indicates a majority of people are ready to get back on the exhibiting floor.
Yes, things are moving forward. Sometimes we feel it’s at a snail’s pace, but even incremental movement is critical. I suspect at some point, you’ll look up and find that you’re booking travel plans and signing exhibiting contracts and planning exhibit updates.
I’ve had Kevin Carty of Classic Exhibits on a handful of times this year for various discussions related to dealing with the COVID Pandemic, how they’re dealing with it and more. But this week I wanted to catch up with Kevin to learn more about virtual exhibits: how they’re working their way into designing and implementing exhibits for clients, and how exhibitors can think about and approach a possible virtual exhibit for their own use:
This week’s ONE GOOD THING: Rain. Sorely needed here on the west coast with all the forest fires still burning. We got a good dose of rain late last week and while it didn’t put the fires out, it gave firefighters a good helping hand.
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The simple act of being aware of what’s going on can transform an average exhibiting experience into a successful one. Here’s a quick video on what you things you might want to be more aware of next time you’re exhibiting.
It’s not a stretch to see how tradeshow exhibit manufacturers can use the same exhibit building blocks and, with a little creativity, create much-needed physical barriers, office dividers, safety shields and more. We’ve been fortunate over the years here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits to work with one of the top exhibit manufacturers in the country, Classic Exhibits. Their creativity in design and their ability to put great products out that meet needs is unmatched, in my humble opinion.
Whether it’s coming up with needed rental equipment for corporate gatherings, office dividers, or hand sanitizer stations – all that look sharp and are miles beyond what you typically see in offices and retail stores – they keep adding.
Check out these desktop safety shields, newly available from TradeshowGuy Exhibits, manufactured by Classic Exhibits:
Download the PDFs here:
- Desktop Safety Shield MOD 8050
- Reception Counter Safety Shield MOD 8051
- Reception Counter Safety Shield MOD 8052
Chances are your desk or reception area doesn’t exactly fit the dimensions in the examples, in which case leave it to our designers to create a rendering showing exactly how they would look in your facility. Just go to TradeshowBuy.com and contact us, or call the number at the top of this page.
I’ve been thinking about virtual events and have a few questions:
Let’s say that Organization A is going to convert their typical in-person event that normally hosts, oh, let’s say, 3500 exhibitors and 80,000 attendees. It’s a pretty big show. Millions of dollars generated in business. A big deal.
Now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will have to go virtual, if the organizers decide to move forward with the event. Something like CES2021 comes to mind, which recently announced they were going all-digital, although it could be any number of large shows.
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around how it would work. And yes, several questions come to my poor little brain as I try to understand how it will work. I would think that exhibitors will need some sort of platform that they’ll provide for online attendees to land on at their main site that will then take them on a tour of the various virtual exhibitors.
Let’s start with the organization that is putting on the virtual event:
- What are you offering attendees and exhibitors?
- How will you implement it?
- What are attendees looking for? Will you be able to give them what they want?
- If you have live sessions, will they be available for playback later?
- What platform will you offer exhibitors for their exhibits, and how will those virtual exhibits be designed and constructed? Will they be from a template, or will you offer custom design services?
- How will those services be priced?
- How much time do you need to implement those services, assuming that you can provide them to all of your exhibitors in a timely manner?
- Is the final online presentation available for a limited time, or can exhibitors take it with them to another venue?
- What flexibility and options will you offer your exhibitors for their virtual exhibit?
- If an exhibitor already has a virtual exhibit done by another provider, will you willingly link to that virtual exhibit from your platform and make it as seamless as possible?
From the attendee’s viewpoint:
- Why should I attend?
- What do I get by attending?
- How much will it cost me to attend?
- If I pay the admission fee, will I have access to all programs for a limited amount of time or will it be open-ended?
- Who else is going to attend?
- Will I be able to get a list of other visitors in any way, shape or form?
From the exhibitors’ viewpoint:
- How will the organizers promote and publicize the show?
- How will they attract people to my booth?
- What options are available to “boost” the attendance in my virtual exhibit?
- How will I know who is there, how long they stay in the virtual space, what they clicked, etc.?
- What is the cost to partake in the virtual tradeshow?
- How long will the virtual exhibit remain available to visitors?
No doubt, you’ll have other questions. I’d love to hear them. I can’t think of everything, right?
It’s a good time to mention that the good folks at Classic Exhibits, the main exhibit manufacturer we work with, is now offering virtual exhibits – and they’re pretty impressive. Take a look here.
With tradeshow marketing on the sidelines, now is as good a time as any to brush up on your tradeshow marketing skill and knowledge. And here’s a great place to find a whole lot of tradeshow marketing tips – all in one place, and all worth their weight in gold. Check out this short under-three-minute video:
Find all of these tips at TradeshowBuy.com!