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Exhibiting in 2021: What Exhibit Managers & Event Coordinators Are Asking About


Here are some answers to questions that we have been asked by various customers in the past few months in all of the industries that we serve. People are trying to make sense of the role of face-to-face marketing and the risks of getting back into it. The biggest question of all has been WHEN?

Live Events Industry Intel: Well, there is good news. Many events have been approved to run live by various governmental agencies/states. The World of Concrete and Waste Expo , two very large events have been rescheduled to June and are confirmed to be approved for live events. Hundreds of smaller vertical events are also approved. Orlando was open throughout and will continue to be open. Find YOUR Show’s new date HERE.

There has been a major shift in the dates of many events. Some show organizers have moved events out of harm’s way, and into the second half of 2021. In fact, the back half of this year, now has 2.5x the number of events as in a normal year. The second half of the year is stacked as show organizers gobble up every open date and change venue locations as needed. It will take expert planning to execute properly when things are this tight. Study your floorplan carefully for changes.

In addition, a large proportion of our customers, who would have ordered over the past 18 months, will likely place orders at the same time this spring/summer. From this super concentrated schedule, we are forecasting a wave of orders will likely stress our customer service, design, manufacturing, rental and delivery capabilities. We will overcome!

Here are some other issues that you should be thinking about:

  • Face to Face – First of all, many are asking about the role of Face-to-Face Marketing as part of the mix or budget. If you can sell your products from a simple web page and there is no need for any interaction with a human and you are doing well with it, then the value of Face-to-Face Marketing for you is low or questionable. However, for those businesses with highly technical, customizable, or layered products or services that have an elevated level of complexity, you probably have a significant budget for Face-to-Face Marketing. The pandemic really didn’t change this fork in the road except perhaps on the margins. Additionally, some subjective goals for Face-to-Face Marketing listed by CEIR surveys over the years have been;
    • Usefulness in collecting industry intel
    • Competitive research
    • Brand Building
    • Mergers & acquisition research
    • Bringing your national or global team together
    • Supply chain enhancement

All of which happen live on the show floor

  • Lower Event Attendance – Initial reports show that event attendance is down between 15-40% depending on the industry, understandably. However, lead quality reports from surveys of the most recent events, shows that while quantity is down, quality is up. That makes sense to me. Those who really need to buy are showing up. Events with a high percentage of International attendance should be the slowest to recover. You should take this into consideration to rebalance you’re spending to get max ROI. I am thinking that in the fourth quarter and beyond, after people see successful B to B events in the third quarter, the attendance could actually be up. We shall see.
  • More Space, for Free? – Be prepared to seize any opportunity offered for more exhibit space (for free). Many show organizers will gift extra space if they get any cancellations, to the most loyal customers for a particular event. If this call comes in, be ready to answer. They often will give you hours to answer. More space is always great. You can spread your existing exhibit assets out or add causal seating areas or include some rental items. Easily done. (Hint: You may want to mention that you would be open to additional space if you have an opportunity to speak with your show organizer or association. Stress the free part.)
  • Your Brand Update – Many organizations tell us that they want to take this opportunity to freshen up the Branding or messaging after the break. However, if you just freshened up your look and message in 2019 0r 20, there is no harm in reusing what you have already invested in. If you feel dated, fix it.
  • Shortages – The global supply chain is a mess. There will be shortages of the weirdest things that you didn’t know you needed. For instance, we are trying to source monitors, and there are very few choices available. Delivery lead times may be extended. Plan a strategy of replacement items for anything you cannot get. Don’t wait to order anything that you know you need. Some poor exhibit manager or event planner will be left holding the bag for waiting too long. Don’t let it be you or your organization
  • Prices – With the above-mentioned shortages, there will be some prices that are likely to rise, at least initially. As you may have seen with the recent housing boom, lumber costs are up over 300%. The best strategy to avoid these increases is to order before the future increases and plan for substitutes. Preserve every budget dollar you can, and maximize its investment value to your organization. We are working hard to build supplies of everything we think you will need and to limit any increases to the extent possible.
  • Logistics – Plan to leave extra time for shipping. We are seeing delays in some areas of days or even weeks. When in doubt, leave yourself some extra time. Upgraded shipping is the biggest event budget waster. Shipping costs have risen considerably. Planning again is essential.
  • People/Labor –Expect shortages of people needed to operate hotels, restaurants, exhibit hall labor, ride sharing services, AV companies, catering and the like. There were hundreds of thousands of people involved in the Live Events Industry. They have scattered. Will they be where you need them when you need them after reopening? I am guessing it won’t be unusual to find some poor person trying to do the work of 10. It may take a year or more for that problem to smooth out. Patience will be needed. My advice to you is to set this expectation with your entire team. I have tried foot tapping, and it doesn’t work.
  • Production Lead Time – The common threads that run through almost all of the above friction points is: Time & Scarcity. Your overall experience will benefit from moving on your checklist sooner rather than later. If you are redesigning or rebranding, you don’t want to be late. Hop to it.
  • Virtual Presence? – For those of you who have tried this, you already know the answer. If you track your lead count and sales performance for ROI calculations, you may want to make sure you are applying measurement metrics to this category. There is a whole group of people that I will hear from carrying virtual pitchforks and torches. I have to be real. Like a Zoom happy hour, they had a moment in the sun.


About the Author

Larry Zollo is a recognized leader in the Trade Show Marketing industry. As the President at Skyline Exhibits & Graphics, he has over 30 years of expertise with trade show displays, exhibits, and booths in Connecticut. Larry has been the presenter or guest speaker at over 50 industry events. He believes that to make any marketing program successful, it is all about clear communication coupled with excitement and engagement. Sounds simple, right? “Gaining qualified leads and more sales at-bats for your sales team is always the goal”.

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