The trade show industry is nothing short of resilient. The rug was pulled out from under show organizers, exhibitors, and attendees in March 2020. Our industry has had to bend, twist, push, pull, and darn near snap at some points. Recovery has been stop-and-go, then full speed ahead, then pump the breaks. We’ve faced (and are still facing) changing safety protocols, last-minute cancellations, material and transportation challenges, and compressed timelines.
Overall, there is a strong sense of hope from show organizers, exhibitors, and attendees throughout the country. We’ve been making significant adjustments since March 2020 and are proving more resilient as the days, weeks, and months pass by.
One silver lining is that this has been an opportunity for creativity, business planning, strategizing, virtual options, and growth for every organization throughout our industry. While we continue to see shows canceling, particularly events with large international audiences, the schedule of large and small in-person events has definitely picked up, and the future looks promising. But we don’t need to wait until then to get a pulse check… we’re already back on the road and here to tell you a bit about our travels.
A few of our Account Executives have provided feedback on their recent experiences as they (alongside clients) have returned to the trade show floor once again [insert the proverbial slap on the back as the whistle blows and coach sends you back out on the field].
Providing input today is Chris Beckstedt, Account Executive since 2002, Jenny Ward, Account Executive since 2004, and Greg Schoenman, Account Executive since 2008.
Here is what they had to say…
What shows have you attended in the last few months, and where were they located (city and venue)?
-EASA / Fort Worth, TX
-Aluminum Expo / Louisville, KY
-Pack Expo / Las Vegas, NV
-World of Concrete / Las Vegas, NV
-Fabtech / Chicago, IL
-AHRA / Nashville, TN
-HIMSS / Las Vegas, NV
-OTC / Houston, TX
-MINExpo / Las Vegas, NV
-Motor Bella / Pontiac, MI
Have you noticed any changes in the registration process?
Jenny: This has been a conversation we’ve had often. It’s a major concern for our clients and attendees. I think our experiences surrounding registration have mirrored each other. For most of these shows, we could pre-register, which was touchless, simple, and efficient. Masks were typically optional, but we came prepared for anything.
Greg: To my knowledge, only one show has required vaccination for attendance, and they did offer a virtual option.
What have you noticed about show attendance?
Jenny – I’ve noticed that traffic has slowed down around 40%, making attendance around 60%. And usually, the last day is really underwhelming, which really isn’t different from pre-COVID but a little more noticed. Brands seem to be sending fewer people, but there’s more strategic interaction, and attendees seem to have done more homework preshow to maximize their time.
Chris: I agree with Jenny. Attendance appeared to be lower, I’d say as much as 50%, depending on the show and industry, but clients are reporting that lead levels are high and quality is good.
Greg: I have a similar report as Jenny and Chris. Most shows are seeing lower attendance, but a few shows did not have a significant slowdown, such as MINExpo and Motor Bella. That’s a great sign. As a side note: I think there is a correlation between industries that continued working during the pandemic and their determination to get back on the show floor and engaging face-to-face (i.e., if they’ve been working throughout, they’re more apt to be on the show floor)
If you had a crystal ball, what’s your guess on how the rest of 2021/early 2022 will unfold when it comes to traveling to trade shows?
Jenny: At the current moment, I think we’re still on shaky ground, but I’m seeing some promising things for next year as long as everyone continues to be socially responsible and no new outbreaks.
Chris: I sure wish I had a crystal ball… I think Q4 will run 60% capacity in comparison to 2019 and before. Upcoming in 2022, my guess is that Q1 will increase to 70/30, and Q3 2022 is 80/20. We’ll be back fully operational by 2023, if not sooner. People are desperate to be back face-to-face.
Greg: I agree, Chris. I think it’s going to be a slow but steady recovery. Most everyone I have talked to wants to get back on the road and is just working through company travel restrictions. Vaccination policies are seeing a loss in their leads and sales with the 18+ month elimination of trade shows in their marketing plans.
What are you looking forward to in 2022?
Jenny: A little more semblance of normal… We’re wayyyyy overdue! 😊
Chris: The list is long, but most importantly is the gradual increase back to the show floor and what innovations will be born from this pandemic.
Greg: I’m definitely looking forward to shows opening back at full force and at their standard scheduled times.
Thank you to Jenny, Chris, and Greg for providing these insights from your last few months on the road. A crystal ball would sure be an excellent tool right now, but this industry is still taking things one day at a time as we navigate this together.