Like every other in-person event in the world, trade shows came to a screeching halt in the spring of 2020. Businesses have adapted: some experimented with virtual trade shows to connect with new customers and show off new products, while others have forgone trade shows entirely since the beginning of the pandemics, with mixed results.
Does this mean that the in-person trade show is now gone for good? Not likely. Before the pandemic, trade shows raked in over $1 trillion in direct sales and attracted over 1.5 billion attendees annually. They are big business, and although some businesses have been able to survive the pandemic without the customer access that trade shows provide, that will not go on forever: the sales opportunities and quality in-person interactions offered by trade shows are hard to replace.
Trade shows are set for a comeback, but they will look different: virtual events, pandemic restrictions, and changing customer preferences have rewritten the rules of the events game. For a successful, pandemic-friendly trade show booth, you now need to consider COVID-19 signage, safety, accessibility, and engaging graphics and installations to help you stand out during the return to in-person events.
The Current State of Trade Shows
Trade shows are coming back to a new reality. Lower indoor capacities, social distancing, ventilation, and even proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test are now considerations facing every large indoor event. Travel restrictions and fluctuating public health guidelines continue to keep large events in limbo, but many are beginning to return this fall.
To manage the short-term uncertainty that large events are still dealing with, many trade shows are looking at how hybrid offerings can provide safer experiences for all attendees. Hybrid trade shows also give event planners a built-in contingency plan if things can’t go ahead as planned: it is no longer all or nothing as it was at the beginning of the pandemic.
The Future of Trade Show Displays in the COVID Era
Although virtual components of large events are likely here to stay, there is still nothing that compares to the connections and conversations that are made possible at an in-person trade show, which is why their return is inevitable. With this return, trade show booths now have to be designed to maximize the safety of attendees and your team. This includes having all of the appropriate COVID-19 signage and materials, along with rethinking the physical layout of your trade show booth.
- Opt-in for a larger space/footprint. Bigger booths will allow for more distancing. Prospects will feel more comfortable lingering and conversing with more space, and your chances of developing high-quality prospects will increase.
- Lucite COVID dividers can minimize risk for both employees and trade show attendees.
- Hand sanitizer stations are vital, especially if customers will be interacting with displays or products.
- Resilient, easy to clean vinyl banners, PoP display shelves, and display hardware.
- Floor stickers to direct traffic and maintain social distancing at your booth.
- Self-serve areas to minimize interactions:
- iPad stands, pop up trade show banners, and antimicrobial copper film for high touch areas, like screens and POS systems
It is also now more important than ever to design a trade show booth that people want to visit. What will you offer that potential customers can’t find virtually? Interactive elements and engaging, energetic staff members are now can’t-miss elements of a successful trade show booth. Design an experience that is both unique, and provides a sense of safety for anyone visiting your booth. Investing in high-quality, custom graphics and installations will help make your booth required stop for participants: even more important with reduced traffic due to pandemic restrictions.
Be Prepared for Event Disruptors in the Future
The pandemic is a time to reset and evaluate new event precautions, experiences, and efficiencies. It has provided an opportunity for business owners and event planners to roll up their sleeves and find creative solutions and designs that put safety first. These are invaluable skills that will allow you to be better prepared for potential event disruptors of the future. For all future trade shows and events, it is now important to:
- Think outside the box. Not everyone returning will have the same comfort level while attending in-person events.
- Prepare for smaller crowds. Travel and event capacity restrictions will most likely continue. Less volume can be made up by having more time to dedicate to prospective customers.
- Consider accessibility. This current reimagining of trade shows is also an opportunity to make your booth more accessible and inclusive for anyone with a disability.
- Be over-prepared. Start planning now while others are still waiting so that nothing gets overlooked or missed, and consider how you can incorporate hybrid elements into your future events.
Pandemic-Friendly Graphics for your Trade Show Event
Color Reflections offers custom event graphics, COVID signage, and interactive designs that will take your next trade show booth to the next level. Work with us to perfect a visual marketing strategy that captivates audiences and keeps everyone safe!