Producing an event or a trade show in the second half of 2020 will be hard work…but it is not impossible.
Here is a framework of how you can think about bringing people together this year and beyond.
1. Believe in your offering! Rallying the organization to believe in the value presented to your community of coming together face to face is first. If there’s no reason to come together, why have a trade show? Pivoting to virtual or allowing digital offerings from others to usurp your place in the ecosystem could denigrate your position long-term. Working through difficult details of how to bring people together starts with the actual belief that what you offer is needed and wanted.
2. After that, remove emotion. Look at relevant news from reliable sources to collect real data that can be used to help you plan for bringing people together. Use facts to tell the story of why and how you are moving forward.
3. Set timelines with all your supplier partners and understand when payments are due to help you control financial risk. Venues, contractors and suppliers are ready to bring people together and capable of shifting deadlines. Decisions to go forward or not from a production standpoint do not need to be made until 45 days out.
4. Allow the voice of your customer to be heard. You do not have to do this alone. If you do not have an exhibitor advisory panel, now is the time to start one to hear their thoughts. Start with your influencers, as their commitment helps the commitment of others. Talk to loyal attendees about what will give them comfort in attending your event. Poll your stakeholders. Do not be afraid to ask and do not be afraid to take action…better you know then assume.
5. Communicate and then communicate some more. Share what you are learning and what you are doing. Your board and investors, your attendees and members, your exhibitors and sponsors should all be kept apprised early and often of the process by which you are making decisions to move forward with an in-person event and how you may be adding virtual elements to support changes or broaden your reach.
6. Don’t shortchange the value of your offering, instead, double-down on what you are providing that people cannot get anywhere else. Take it to market with strength. Consider the pent-up demand that may exist and look to related markets to find new participants who may have lost the ability to connect due to others cancelling their events.
7. Alter your financial policies to represent what is appropriate for your journey to execution. Change fees and refund policies should be timed with your decision-making and consider the behind-the-scenes work leading up to an event. Consider long-term impact on a client over short-term needs. Find out how to offer a guarantee or refund monies if the path ultimately ends in a canceled live event.
8. It will get easier. People are venturing out more and more as venues across America re-open. People in some industries never stayed home but rather have been out every day due to the nature of their work. All this contributes to the readiness of humans to gather. Only four states have comprehensive restrictions on movement as of May 26. Most local and state governments continue to ease restrictions, and protocols for gathering are being put in place.
9. Recognize your role in re-unifying your community of people, whether that is a membership association, alumni group or independent gathering of trade professionals. These are colleagues who need to return to places where they feel relevant and confident. Read more about the psychology of coming together face-to-face.
10. Safety and sanitation procedures are rapidly developing. The GBAC Star certification will help ensure safety standards and is rapidly being adopted by those working in trade shows and event. Technology, devices and methods exist to control participant entry, keep physical distance and use personal protection at trade shows and events. De-densification, cleaning practices and zero-touch mechanisms can support safety while bringing people together.
If you do believe in your offering, that your event has impact, that your trade show can drive commerce and advance objectives for your attendees and exhibitors, we can work together to find ways to keep people safe and healthy while they’re together.