Should your business still exhibit post-Covid?

There is no doubt that events will have a certain excitement quality post-COVID. With the luxury of attending events and congregations removed, many will look upon them with a rosier tint, that distant world of buzz, excitement and free movement.

But visitor fascination isn’t enough to guarantee the financial viability of companies exhibiting. When trade shows do come back, there will be a cap on attendees, social distancing, and various measuresin place to minimise transmission risk. Far from the bustling, hectic shows of old, these post-pandemic trade shows will have to be streamlined, deliberate and cost-efficient. 

So, should businesses still exhibit in a post-COVID world? The answer is yes, for a few key reasons. 

The novelty of live

First, digital has become the norm. Over the last year, with individuals barricaded up in their domiciles, digital technology has become the core means by which people connect to the outside world. What this means is that when restrictions do finally lift, venturing outside will be an excursion in itself.

In years past, social commentators were busy lamenting the state of the modern world, as people sailed past each other with eyes glued to phone screens and headphones nestled in ears, growing increasingly entrenched within the digital sphere. Now, having been denied social connectivity, the novelty will be real, live interaction. People will be leaving their homes with a view to explore, to re-immerse themselves in the experiences they took for granted.

CEO of Bournemouth-based Black Robin Exhibits, Alan Jenkins, comments, ‘If nothing else, the pandemic has demonstrated that no matter how digital we get, nothing will ultimately replace the vibrancy of real-world experience.’ For businesses, this means a massive renewal in the importance of live marketing. 

Of course, visibility will be a challenge for businesses facing new COVID-related restrictions. Especially for those businesses sapped within an inch of their life by the pandemic, will they be able to get the exposure they need to justify the cost of exhibiting?

In reality, while attendee caps are likely to be introduced, this doesn’t necessarily mean a reduction in potential business. Those that do attend the exhibit will be decision makers, individuals with the power and interest to make a purchase. These events will no longer be free-for-alls; they will be carefully planned out business events, organised to promote successful, worthwhile interactions. After all, planners want the event to be successful, and will have to do all they can within the parameters. 

A new structure

For businesses, the exhibition stands themselves will also have to be rethought. Literature and handouts will be gone. Pop-up banners will vanish. Touch screens (even though some are claiming the health risks can be averted) will likewise disappear. The emphasis will be on live interaction, and well-organised channels for customers to navigate. Stands will be segmented into smaller areas, with screens between exhibitor and attendee, and each area serving a function, such as to book an appointment with a sales team. 

It seems that exhibitors will have to apply rules similar to those of website conversion rate optimisation, or CRO, which dictate that all elements of a website should direct the visitor toward a focal point of sales action. Post-COVID exhibitors should look to efficient, succinct ways of presenting their business such that onlookers have no difficulty in ‘cutting to the chase’ and taking action with that exhibiting company. 

Poised to profit

Mapping out the future of the events industry is perhaps harder than it has ever been. Even before COVID, processes like digitisation were already radically changing the trade show landscape, and now with the complete upheaval caused by the pandemic, steering your business towards a successful 2021 may seem a task fraught with difficulty.

However, after the lifting of the lid on restrictions set to occur later this year, we are likely to see an explosion of consumer interest in live marketing and live events. If businesses can properly position themselves to capitalise on this surge, they may well reap huge rewards.