Be Prepared and Crush Your 2021 In-Person Trade Show Comeback

First of all, kudos to everyone who adapted their offerings to accommodate the changing needs of their audience and to everyone who adapted their trade shows for the virtual space. This took careful planning, ingenuity and persistence! Throughout this past year, many of us found new niches for our products and services and learned how to take even better care of our customers.

Now, here we are. The year 2021 is spread out before us and in many ways it looks like dry land after months of being tossed at sea. The COVID-19 vaccine is here, consumer confidence is increasing and many people are planning to resume normal activities.

Pew Research Center surveyed over 4,700 Americans and reports that 78% of people have tentative trips planned in 2021.

Consequently, in-person trade shows are back.

What are the benefits of in-person trade shows?

Now more than ever, people are looking for meaningful connections and craving face-to-face interactions. We are wired to operate in a community with others. In the trade show industry, there are many benefits to in-person interactions:

-It’s easier to establish new relationships and foster existing relationships.

-It’s easier to build trust.

-You have people’s undivided attention.

-People can touch and feel your products and learn directly from your team members how your services can benefit their business.

-It’s easier to engage in back-and-forth communication, clarify terms and negotiate business deals.

There’s no substitute for personal connection. Face-to-face has always been and will always be the most effective way to do business.

What can I anticipate as I plan my in-person trade show?

As we ease back into in-person events, you will notice some differences and it’s important to plan your trade show strategy accordingly:

1. Shows will be smaller.
Regional shows will increase in popularity. Organizers may limit show registration numbers and have certain days/times that attendees can be in the exhibit halls.

Plan for a slower yet steady pace of foot traffic. Expect initially to generate fewer leads than during past in-person shows. Consider extending your reach by offering a hybrid approach with virtual resources that attendees, their team members and other interested parties can access during and after your show.

2. Expect more distance between booths, wider aisles, directional arrows to facilitate traffic flow and floor markers to encourage social distancing. Masks will likely be required.

Plan for a more intimate guest experience. You will have a higher ratio of 1:1 interactions. It will be even more important to staff your booth with people who possess exemplary interpersonal skills.

3. Expect special attention to sanitization procedures throughout the venue. This means hand sanitizer at each booth and in common areas and prepackaged food and beverages in cafeteria spaces.

Show consideration for your guests by making hand sanitizer available at your booth. Consider replacing edible freebies (candies, etc.) with non-edible freebies like keyrings, magnets, notepads or even branded masks.

4. Organizers may mandate temperature checks upon entry.

If you find out in advance that temperature checks will be required, give guests a heads up in your pre-event communication.

5. Organizers may host outdoor events.

If you have the opportunity to exhibit at an outdoor event, embrace it. Have a basket of complimentary branded sunglasses available for your guests. Not only is it a practical giveaway but they make a great walking billboard for your business! Mini sunscreen bottles or free bottled waters are a couple of other on-point giveaway ideas for an outdoor event.

Start planning now so you’re ready to hit the ground running this trade show season. Keep in mind that attendees will be craving in-person connection and will be eager to engage with you about your offerings. Also, anticipate some hesitancy over new health and safety protocol and put guests’ minds at ease by accommodating them in a bunch of small ways.

Let’s move forward together!

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