What to Consider as Trade Shows Return – Gilbert

After a year on hold, trade shows are finally starting to come back as vaccinations increase and cases dwindle. However, the trade shows that exhibitors and attendees return to will most likely look very different than those they left in early 2020. This past year has been a rollercoaster, causing brands to pivot their marketing strategies, learn new technologies, and adapt to a market that changed virtually (no pun intended) overnight. COVID-19 has changed the game, and as brands revamp their trade show programs, there are a number of new factors that will be critical to consider to make trade show activations both impactful and safe. 

Trade show booth

How Will Your Virtual/Digital Programs Tie In?

After a year of virtual events, webinars, and Zoom calls, many people are eager to get back to in-person events. However, safety is still top of mind for attendees and will shape the layout of trade shows in the short term. This means possibly fewer in-person attendees than previous years. 

To maximize reach and impact, it’s important to have virtual/digital components to your exhibit that can engage attendees who either can’t or don’t feel comfortable traveling to attend the show. Emotional intelligence and empathy are very important here. Some attendees simply will not feel comfortable traveling yet, and you don’t want to exclude them. 

The benefits of virtual/digital components to your in-person trade show program remain. Virtual experiences don’t have the restrictions of time or space, and can live long after the physical show ends, thus creating valuable opportunities to engage with your brand during and in between shows.

How Do You Showcase Product?

Exhibitors at many shows, such as Vision Expo, rely on attendees physically interacting with products – touching, feeling, and trying on. With infection still a risk, how products will be showcased at the show will be crucial to driving impact and engagement with attendees. Limiting the number of products, such as showing one example of a product line instead of every SKU,  and sanitizing them after each use can be an effective option. 

Person scanning QR code

Coupling limited products with technology can also prove extremely effective. COVID has sparked the resurgence of QR codes as a safe and easy way to view everything from menus to clothing. If your brand has virtual tryon software, this combination can help attendees see how they look with your products while staying safe. 

How Do You Keep Employees and Attendees Safe?

Safety will be the primary concern amongst both exhibitors and attendees as trade shows pick back up. In addition to safety protocols implemented by show management and recommended by the CDC (mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing), exhibitors will need to rethink traditional trade show exhibit design and consider how safety plays a role in the attendee journey. 

Pre-pandemic exhibit designs often encouraged random exploration and lounging. Exhibitors wanted attendees to get lost in their exhibit and even stick around for a while on a couch. Now, conscious, planned customer journeys carved out through thoughtful design and wayfinding will help guide attendees through the exhibit to promote social distancing and limit close human interaction. 

Technology will also play a major role in keeping attendees safe. Sensors to notify attendees of when rooms are occupied and/or not sanitized or sanitized/ready to enter will provide peace of mind and comfort. When considering the attendee journey, think “contactless” as much as possible. Leveraging personal phones for scanning and brand exploration will limit the need to touch surfaces and bring a more technologically advanced presence to your exhibit. 

Both attendees and exhibitors alike are eager to get back to in-person events after a year on pause. As trade shows come back, it’s important to consider how the landscape has changed and what will be required to tell your story and engage attendees while keeping everyone safe. Exhibitors planning on employing the same strategies as past years risk not seeing the response or return they hoped for. When planning your trade show activation, consider how virtual and physical will tie in together, how technology will serve your needs, and how to engage attendees while making them feel safe. 

When planning your trade show activation or in-person event, it’s always important to check CDC guidelines to ensure you are protecting yourself and others. You can visit the CDC’s website here.

About Gilbert

Gilbert is a turnkey organization that provides design, construction, and management solutions for trade show exhibits, retail, hospitality, corporate, and residential environments, and corporate events. 

Learn more about our trade show services here


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