Many trade show and event marketers are facing a difficult scheduling choice. Due to the disruption COVID-19 caused to face-to-face marketing in 2020 and early 2021, many in-person events have been rescheduled to the 2nd half of 2021. At the same time, the show’s “normal” schedule is planned for 2022. For instance, HIMSS is scheduled in 2021 for early-August and again in 2022 in Q1, mid-March. EXHIBITORLIVE is kicking off 2021 at the end-of-October (which we are elated about!) and then again, less than 9 months later, in June of 2022. The list of shows where this is happening is longer than you may realize. So, should you participate in a rescheduled face-to-face event even if the next regularly scheduled event will be held in nine months or less?
Why You Should Participate:
Do Participate! At first glance, you might be thinking of holding off until 2022, but it is important to have a presence at a significant industry event right now for many reasons:
1. Still in the Game – You want to demonstrate to your clients, prospects. competitors that you are “still in the game” and not “sitting on the sidelines.”
2. Test Your Supplier Resources – You want to ensure that your exhibit house, labor provider and other suppliers can meet the demands of your current program. You can test that out on a smaller show vs. waiting for a bigger one to come along later.
3. Team Practice – This will give your current team (which may now have a new or different player profile) the opportunity to work together at a show – to get back into the routine of doing so, and refine your processes and interactions. NOTE: your target audience, and likely their buying process, has changed during the pandemic and therefore how you approach them will need to change, too.
4. Gather Feedback – This will give you the opportunity to hear directly from clients and prospects – and better understand their new and current concerns, pain points, and challenges.
5. Maintain Seniority or Priority – This will ensure your position is maintained with the show organizer throughout the space selection (or lottery) process going into the future.
Think Differently About Your Approach:
1. Rethink Your Face-to-Face Strategy. It seems that in the Pre-COVID Era (PCE), a lot of us took for granted the beauty of face-to-face interactions. But, the last 18 months have reminded us how much we’ve missed making meaningful connections in-person. So, now that we finally have the opportunity to return to face-to-face, it’s important to help make that moment special!
- Dress to Impress: Identify which aspects of your brand or product are best shared or showcased through in-person interactions. Then elevate those experiences to a higher plane. Is it the texture of the finish on your product? The smell of the genuine leather? The fidelity or clarity of the sounds made by your product? The vibrant colors? The resolution of video or images which cannot be fully appreciated via a Zoom interaction? Or other physical experiences, touches, challenges.
- Walk the Talk: Be overtly obvious about the sanitization or cleaning process, or protective coverings so that people will feel safe and comfortable to engage in the experience.
3. Consider Changing Your Engagements.
- Up Your Game: Consider how you may want to modify your typical on-site interactions with customers and prospects. This might mean changing the way you approach demos; using contactless interactives, or many other options. The point is that now may be an opportunity to make changes for the better.
- Check Your Setup: If you don’t have exactly what you need currently, consider rental options from your exhibit house. This can apply not only to the physical structures and components, but to the technology as well.
- Consider Hybrid Experiences: Ask yourself… How can our brand take some of what is happening on the show floor, and make it accessible to those who are remote? How can those who are remote have a way to interact with our booth staffers, and other attendees who are in your booth?
4. Appoint a Specialist for Medical & Safety. Appoint someone to be your official representative to handle all medical, health, safety, protocol, emergency, and enforcement issues in the booth. This role needs to be trained to respond appropriately to any of these situations. In turn, they can also present some basic training with all booth staffers. Another idea for this role is to provide them with distinction from other booth staffers, such as a different colored shirt or hat or a unique badge… something to make them easily identifiable.
5. Consider This a Dress Rehearsal. View the first show as a dress rehearsal for the main event. You should certainly approach it seriously. But, be nimble, agile, and make changes as needed along the way. And go into the show expecting certain elements to be lacking– such as the size of the crowd and lack of international attendees.
6. Re-evaluate All Messaging & Content. Carefully review and update all content to ensure it sufficiently and properly addresses the current state of the world, especially in relation to the pandemic. It is likely that you will want to convey a message of strength and viability of your company, brand, and organization through the pandemic and beyond. You can take this opportunity to express concern, compassion, and sentiment for the struggles that people are having – and have had – and the repercussions of the pandemic. And, you may want to take this as an opportunity to communicate how the pandemic has caused your organization to shift. What is different now?
Take the Lead or Lose Leads!
While event schedules are catching back up to normal, now is the perfect time to make the most of an early mover advantage. Organizations that prioritize the return to face-to-face events will gain advantages over those who hesitate. Now is your chance to reestablish your visibility, while also setting a strong foundation ahead of regular event schedules. People within our industry are eager to get back on the road and your serious, qualified target audience is just as eager. To skip an event, even one within close proximity to the same industry event in a few months, means you risk missing out on the networking connections and leads that will happen.
If you need help planning your next event or preparing for a packed event schedule, contact us today and we’ll help make your return unforgettable.