Christopher Dorn, President of Idea International Inc on how the event industry can rebuild post-Covid-19.
Our industry was the first to be hit by the pandemic. Immediately tradeshows and large meetings, as well as entertainment and sporting events, came to a halt. Yes, we all were understandably worried, but Covid-19 enabled us to take a new look at how we understand our business.
We had to take a closer look at our customers’ needs. How is Covid-19 making an impact on their businesses? What organisational changes did they have to make? Did they establish new priorities? What are their challenges? And finally, what can we do to help jumpstart their businesses?
Where are we now?
Right now, in my part of the world, the APAC region, tradeshows are making a comeback. The Chinese State Council has cleared the way to restart exhibitions.
According to incomplete statistics, during the six-day Hunan Auto Show, which opened 30 April, there were 62,380 visitors and 23,910 vehicles sold.
Meanwhile, on 8 May, KINTEX (South Korea) saw the opening of the 53rd MBC Construction EXPO. There are no statistics yet for this multi-industry tradefair, but estimates place attendance over 20k with more than 500 exhibitors.
Health and safety
In case you’re wondering (I was), attendees at the Hunan Auto Show had to submit an ID card and undergo a strict health and identity check before entering the venue. The organisers made it clear they were adhering to the strict requirements of epidemic prevention and control, with all staff, volunteers, car dealer service personnel, and visitors undergoing stringent checks. All participants had to wear a mask and received reminders to wash their hands frequently. A national government affairs service applet code and WeChat facilitated the registration application process.
In the EU, the German government announced that exhibitions would no longer be considered ‘mass events’ under coronavirus restrictions. The individual German federal states can now decide when exhibitions are held as long as guidelines for hygiene and personal distance are in place. Jörn Holtmeier, managing director of AUMA, Germany's tradefair association, said this was an ‘important step’ towards ‘rebooting’ the tradefair industry. “As exhibitions are platforms for innovation and co-operation, they will stimulate the recovery of the German economy in the short and medium run,” he said. “The German exhibition organisers and AUMA, too, are prepared to provide the responsible authorities with expertise and experience concerning the realisation of exhibitions."
But what about the US?
As tradeshows ramp up in the APAC region and the EU, the US is slower to reopen. Here is the opportunity to establish partnerships and alliances that are more than afterthoughts. We know that US companies need global markets. Yet, at this point, international travel is a point of concern. Many companies have travel bans in place, and international air travel is suffering from quarantine restrictions.
Now is the time for all of us to tell US companies who have been our clients, as well as potential new clients that we can be their boots-on-the-ground representatives. There is not much planning for tradeshows that cannot be accomplished virtually. But we can add the service to go beyond mere planning and offer to do the execution for customers whose companies currently have travel restrictions or who are unable to travel for other reasons. We can not only design and build stands, we can recruit staff, order hospitality, engage translators - in short, everything that our customers would do if they were able to be on site. We have an excellent opportunity to reinvent the global exhibition model.
I welcome your comments! Please email me, care of Exhibition World (firstname.lastname@example.org).