Exhibitions have been around for a long time. According to scholars there were fairs started to be organised in the 12th century

Roger Van Kempenbut the fair for the fairs as we know them today was given in 1851 in London. The first World Exhibition was held in Hyde Park in the specially designed Crystal Palace. It was a resounding success, where more than 16,000 participants from all over the world drew 6,000,000 visitors. When people ask me at a party what I do, interesting conversations often arise.

Exhibitions are a world of their own and, like many who work in our industry, think we often find ourselves the only one in the family with such a job. The exhibition world is like a drug to me, sometimes I hate it, but I cannot live without it. It is a fast world where people work hard, the stress level is often high, and yet I have a dream job. I meet many interesting people in many places around the world and I witness the latest developments. Important inventions such as the first telephone, car and record player were all presented to the world at an International exhibition. An exhibition is the place where the most beautiful products are often shown to the world for the first time. Every year I look forward to great events such as an Interpack, Sial, Euroshop, IBC, Batibouw, Innotrans, Bau, IAA and countless others that slip my mind.

Now I am very concerned about our industry. I think we are one of the hardest hit sectors and we are the last who will return to operations as usual. In January there was still nothing to worry about and in February speculation began about whether some exhibitions would continue. All of us know better now and a lot of shows have already been canceled or have been postponed, and even some exhibitions that have been postponed are again in danger. For example, some time ago we hoped that a Drupa or Interpack would continue. Everyone knows that this will be next year. Our hope is now on September, October, but is that realistic? If you are honest and follow the developments, this is still very much the question and perhaps even the events that will take place in early 2021 are in danger.

That is why I call on all exhibition organizations, exhibition halls, influential people in the business, stand-builders and participants, to think about solutions now. Do not put your head in the sand, because if it turns out in September that there will be no events until the end of the year, it will be too late!

The Corona virus is terrible, and my thoughts go out to the many victims it has made and their families. Health for everyone is the most important thing, but we must also prevent thousands of people from losing not only their jobs, but their industry, community, and ability to connect people in the most fundamentally human way: face to face.

Organizations need to write protocols on how to deal with the situation. Heat meters, free masks, etc. Maybe make the rental prices a little lower and make more halls available, so that small participants can also take a little more meter to respect distance. Think of wider aisles. Make sure that visitors and exhibitors can be confident in our solutions. Also stand builders, agencies and designers, think about what we can do. In a design but also how employees can work safely. If we don’t start thinking about how we are going to do it now, it will be too late for a lot of companies. 

The Corona virus is terrible, and my thoughts go out to the many victims it has made and their families. Health for everyone is the most important thing, but we must also prevent thousands of people from losing not only their jobs, but their industry, community, and ability to connect people in the most fundamentally human way: face to face.

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