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COVID 19 Exit : How to reduce the size of your show without diluting the quality – Peter MacGillivray

Optimistic show managers are working hard to design plans that will allow their events to reopen as soon as possible. Face masks, gloves, temperature stations at every entrance –these never-before-contemplated items are likely at the top of everyone’s list. 

Flowing foot traffic through the hall so that attendees can maintain a safe distance makes sense too. And while those provide the obvious and tangible precautions necessary for the safety and security of our stakeholders, there’s another solution that is a bit less obvious.

Social distancing is perhaps the most important safeguard currently available to us. It doesn’t matter if you are walking down the street, shopping in a grocery store or waiting in line at the post office, that six feet between us is critical. Unfortunately, that same principle flies in the face of one of the fundamentals of the events business. I’ve maintained that a good indicator of a great show is when the aisles are so packed you can’t see the carpet. If we insist on six feet between attendees, my definition of success may become just one more relic of the good old days.

Crowd management is going to become “a thing.” And while it defies what we learned in Trade Show 101, we had better come up with solutions fast. A friend of mine once said that if you put a group of buyers on the moon, there would be exhibitors willing to buy booth space in space. That concept is more valid today than ever. In this era of social distancing, the opportunity that heightened attendee screening represents will become invaluable. The primary objective of your show is to connect buyers with sellers. Yet many of us have found ourselves credentialing both “buyers” and exhibit staff we are unsure about. Taking a hard look at this practice could become more valuable than a lake full of hand sanitizer. ? If your show is a marketplace that facilitates buyers and sellers. How do you reduce the size of your show without diluting the quality, you have some options:

  1. Audit the badge allotments assigned to exhibitors. Many exhibitors bring along an entourage of family, friends and customers – and many shows turn a blind eye to the issue. If your show has several hundred exhibitors or more, the number of questionable attendees getting in via unchecked booth allocation may be huge. And it’s likely that these attendees add very little to the overall value of the show.
  2. Heighten your attendee qualifications. Most shows have already gone through this as a result of intensified security concerns over the years. But the fact remains that most shows are still falling short when it comes to questionable credentials. Enhancing your attendee audit will ensure that the most qualified buyers are at your show.
  3. Let your stakeholders know that this process is in place. The new hand sanitizing stations at the front doors are nice. And the branded face mask is a necessary and fun idea too. Heightened attendee screening will promote social distancing and that is equally if not more important.

In most cases just having the right buyers in the aisles will be a compelling value proposition for your event. And while it feels like it is contrary to our definition of a winning show – packed aisles – quality trumps quantity every time.


About the Author

Peter MacGillivray, from Boston, MA, USA is internationally known strategist, playing key role in leading the transformation of traditional events into experiential festivals, attracting hundreds of thousands of attendees.

Over the last 18 Years, Peter  has been able to evolved The Speciality Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show from a traditional trade show model to a world-class business event by integrating innovative features, soliciting lucrative sponsorship, securing celebrity appearances, and exponential increasing exhibitors and vendors though value-based sales initiatives.