Originally published by Trade Show Executive
As we enter the second quarter of 2021, we are beginning to see the light at the end of a very long tunnel. As the vaccine rollouts continue and we slowly make our way to safely reopening exhibitions and events, we still have many issues to work through such as pent-up labor demand, travel restrictions, testing and safety at shows, and earning attendees’ trust in feeling good about attending shows.
These considerations apply to all trade shows, big and small. However, it is natural to look to the larger shows to see how they are tackling these challenges. Although the MATSO (Major American Trade Show Organizers) community must wait until government restrictions are lifted for larger gatherings, the IAEE MATSO Council has been taking a hard look at these issues in anticipation of how to best manage these obstacles. In speaking with thought leaders in this area of our industry, I’ve realized that there are commonalities among their findings that impact all shows regardless of size.
One notable point of consensus is that the hybrid and virtual event models will remain strongly relevant throughout this year. Last year’s learning curve whiplash has been replaced with a determination to make the most of these formats and the understanding that despite our eagerness to return to fully in-person events, we will most likely have to wait until next year.
With this in mind, organizers must master the process of successfully executing a hybrid/virtual event given the absolute understanding in 2020 that they require a different planning process. IAEE has devoted several webinars to this subject that we will continue to expand upon, which can be found at http://www.iaee.com.
Research provided by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) supports this, and it has created an entire series to help the industry with its adaptation. Findings in the first report in CEIR’s Global Virtual Events Trends series reflect that more than half of the respondents had already made plans to continue offering a virtual/hybrid event through 2021, and more than half had either met or exceeded their financial goals for their virtual events held in 2020.
Knowing that there is achievable success with these formats, coupled with the uncertainty that still lies ahead for our industry, makes the virtual/hybrid solution our best option for now. CEIR’s Global Virtual Events Trends reports are available for free to all industry professionals, I highly recommend taking advantage of this invaluable data.
Another key point for executive leaders will be to work more closely with their marketing and communications teams. Regardless of the number of attendees typical to a show, people are people – and their responsiveness will vary. By responsiveness, I am referring to how receptive they will be to the value they perceive from attending a virtual event as well as to the safety measures in place for hybrid and in-person events.
There is no such thing as over-communicating, especially when it comes to these two subjects. The feedback I am receiving from industry executives is that personalized and transparent communication yields the highest levels of engagement. Marketing executives zeroed in on personalized and targeted messaging years ago, but what I am talking about moves past that.
Again, the key being that we have been/are still dealing with an unprecedented crisis for our industry. We must go above and beyond our standard communication strategies if we want to regain the trust of our stakeholders – regardless of show size.
And, of course, the final overriding sentiment as we move into 2021Q2 is that executives across the industry will continue examining all aspects of our recovery as we strive to get our industry where it needs to be.
David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President & CEO