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.
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.
Are you guilty of any of these? Don’t feel bad. We’re only human, but if we know ahead of time what things to know, what to avoid and how to prepare, we can have a much better and more successful tradeshow exhibiting experience.
After viewing Exhibitor Magazine‘s latest survey data last week from the exhibitor and supply side of the tradeshow world, it got me to thinking about what exhibitors should do now. Here’s a short video:
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:
It isn’t a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. And it’s possible that in some areas of the country, small meetings and corporate events are already back, or on their way. And that may mean that some of these venues, such as hotels, small conference centers, or corporations with their own event centers, are not prepared.
They’ll be looking for workstations, counters, branded LED lightboxes, monitors, charging stations, hand sanitizer stations, and more. Chances are they don’t have all of these items readily available. And it may not be a good approach to try and purchase all of these things, and then try and store them from show to show.
Nope, it’s probably a better idea to RENT these things. Which is exactly what you get when you team up with TradeshowGuy Exhibits and Classic Rental Solutions. We’ve worked with the designers, project managers, and fabricators at Classic Exhibits for nearly two decades and know they offer high-quality top-of-the-line material. And with the pandemic afoot, they’ve turned their designers loose to come up with a variety of items that you might need for an upcoming event. Rent, don’t buy, when it comes to things you’ll only use a time or two a year, especially when event requirements may change from event to event.
Click on these images for larger information sheets, then click through to the more thorough website info pages below:
We can get caught up in an imaginary world pretty easily. Just try following the stock market as it bounces and bounces. And bounces. See your IRA value go UP. See it go down. Yes, it’s real money, and yes, you are hoping it does well, but until you decide to actually pull the money out and put it to use, such as retirement, it’s not real. It’s just numbers on a screen or monthly statement. No matter how much your Tesla holdings have increased, until you sell and put the cash into a bank account, it’s a (mostly) imaginary world.
Same in the world of tradeshows. You can dream and plan and work towards your next show, but in these days of COVID-19, the actual date might not set. Your flight tickets are not purchased. Your hotels are not reserved. Your booth space may not be finalized. Your booth graphics will change, but until you know exactly what products you’ll be promoting at the show, it’s hard to plan much without knowing when the show take place. Or if it’ll take place.
What to do?
You can play ‘what if?’ There’s nothing wrong with a game of what if. It’s how ideas are brought forth. How they’re measured and assessed. Discarded or amended. Set aside for the future.
What if the show doesn’t happen until 2022? What if everything changes and suddenly, we have to have a new exhibit ready in three months? Playing what if doesn’t take much time, and it doesn’t commit you to anything. But it does allow you and your team to look at the various paths ahead that may or may not open up. It allows you to look at multiple contingencies. Yes, you may already be doing this, but try doing it and expanding the horizon. Try to imagine things that before may have been unimagineable.
We’re living in unprecedented times. Today you may be busier than you’ve been in months. But tomorrow you may have time to play a game of what if.
In the past few weeks, new stories have popped up on the New York Times, Reuters, National Geographic, and others about the COVID-19 Pandemic affecting the feasibility of an open office format in workplaces. It’s a good question and there are no easy answers.
An open office puts people, sometimes dozens of them (or more) into an environment where people work within a few feet of other. In today’s social distancing world, even as states and businesses work to get back to some semblance of normal, many employees will not be as enthusiastic about the open office as their managers might be.
Employee Anxiety Levels
A good manager will likely realize that the anxiety of their employees will range from one end of the spectrum to the other, and will go to lengths to provide safety, both physical and emotional, to their employees.
What does that mean on a practical level? For one, it might mean that many people continue to work from home. If it works, it may be the thing to do.
But other companies and other employees may be itching to get back to the office. Yeah, working from home has its bennies, but it also has its challenges: kids, neighborhood noises, spouses also working from home. Juggling all of those elements can’t be easy (I know from personal experience), and that may mean employees are leaning towards getting back to the workplace, where a more normal reality awaits.
Or does it?
Meeting New Needs
Companies and managers that are sensitive to the needs of the employees will no doubt be looking at ready-made solutions to separate employees. The old “cubicle” may come back in some form.
You may not be surprised to learn that what works to build a great, easy-to set-up and dismantle exhibit also works to form functional and efficient office dividers, or if you like, office pods. The manufacturer we most often work with, Classic Exhibits in Portland, has been working with architects and space planners for several weeks now to come up with appropriate office dividers at a competitive price.
They’ve even named the product PlaceLyft and have a number of options that range from simple and economical to more complex. Lyft One, Lyft Two, Lyft Three and Custom Solutions. Here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we have at least fifteen years of working hand-in-hand with Classic Exhibits, so we know the level of quality and commitment that they bring to any endeavor.
Cleaning the Dividers
Fabric or cloth-covered cubicle walls are difficult to clean. There’s no getting around that. How would that work? Steam-cleaning? Time-consuming and perhaps not that effective. But when faced with cleaning various optional divider materials with these Office Pods, all are easy to clean:
Sintra and Dibond: a clean look available in many color options. You can print to it if you want. Both are easy to clean; just spray and wipe it down.
Grease board (dibond): metal versions as well as standard which you can put magnets on. Available in at least eight standard colors.
Acrylics: available in clear or color. Some of the acrylics are not suitable for frequent cleaning, so the right cleaner is needed. Peroxide based cleaners are best for Acrylics.
These panels have a lot going for them: adjustable wire management, adjustable feet for leveling and running wire underneath, custom heights, option to put a thin panel in the middle of the Gravitee frame for potential sound-proofing, removable fabric graphics that are easily laundered for cleaning and much more.
We have a number of informational sell sheets available on the Office Pods here. Take a look and please contact us for more information if you have questions.
The tradeshow, event and conference industries are not dead. It’s just sleeping. It’ll awaken at some point again and roar to life.
In the meantime, time on your hands. Maybe, maybe not. I certainly have time on my hands. And I have to bring in a little income.
So, I’m driving for Uber Eats and delivering food three to four hours a day. Not bad money, actually, for the time involved. My older son, who’s in his late 20s, had been working as a cook in an upscale restaurant which had to close when the coronavirus restrictions here in Oregon went into place. When we went skiing together a month ago, he told me that he’d been driving for Uber Eats a few hours before he went to work, and then a few hours after he got off in the evening. Now that the restaurant closed, he’s doing it eight hours a day, six or seven days a week. Likes being in his car (it’s new), listening to music, and bringing food to people.
I thought, I can do this. And making a few extra bucks (it’s actually pretty good pay) was enticing. It took a short while to get signed up and approved, and now I’m delivering food from restaurants to people a few hours a day. Sometimes lunch, sometimes dinner.
It gives me a lot of time to think. And listen to rock, or podcasts. But definitely time to think.
And I got to thinking about systems. What kind of systems does it take for an Uber driver (or Door Dash or Grub Hub or any of those companies) to get an offer to drive, accept it, pick up the food and deliver it in a timely manner while it’s still hot?
The driver needs:
Smartphone with app
Address to pickup
Address to deliver
The smartphone has all of those items, other than the car, built in. GPS. Mapping. Internet connectivity.
The customer needs:
An app to order food from
An address for the driver to deliver it to
A way to pay (credit or debit card) they can use through the app
The restaurant needs:
A system that receives incoming orders and gets them to the kitchen in a timely manner
Ability to prepare food quickly and have it ready for pickup within a few moments
As I drive from a restaurant to a drop off point, it’s common to get another offer to pick up another order before the current one is delivered.
During my drives, I keep thinking what an intricate system this is. What an elaborate dance it is to transmit an offer to a driver that’s in the area, about to drop off one order, to deliver another order. As an Uber Eats driver, it’s all optional. Don’t want that one? Don’t take it.
Then I get to thinking about the systems built around tradeshows and events. About what the show organizer needs. What the exhibitor needs. What the visitor needs.
Think about the systems that must be in place for all of that to work to a positive effect on a regular basis. Design and fabrication of tradeshow exhibits. Shipping, setup/dismantle logistics. Travel and lodging. Product development and production.
As a participant, you only can see and control what’s immediately in front of you. But as a tradeshow marketing manager, you can exert a lot of control over how your company exhibits. How your product is presented, how your company is represented by the exhibit and the booth staff. Who sets up the booth, who handles shipping and so on.
Now that the tradeshow and event industry is on hiatus, maybe it’s a good time to examine your systems that hold everything in place from your perspective and see what can be improved.
After all, while I don’t mind driving a few hours a day delivering food, I’d rather get back to the tradeshow world full time soon.