When Your Event Can’t Go Virtual

By: Betsy Jacoby-Greenleaf, CEM of Jacoby Expo & Events

A recent CEIR survey showed that 69% of show organizer executives who have cancelled their event are considering one or more virtual offerings in delivering content.  Numerous webinars, articles and discussions have shared platforms, revenue-generating ideas and tips and tricks to make the switch successful.

But what if your event relies on seeing, touching, or even smelling product prior to purchasing? A virtual event simply does not meet the demands of your target audience – so the question these show organizers face is whether they cancel or move forward with their 2020 and 2021 events.

I am currently working with a client moving forward with an event in late August 2020. The decision was made with a board majority vote and member support. The biggest challenge we have faced thus far is the lack of best practices and guidance from a government, facility, and industry standpoint.

Here is what I learned during the process of making these decisions and what I think we will see in the future of events.

Exhibitor and Attendee Confidence

Whether you are a member-driven association or corporate show organizer, it is crucial to have the support and confidence of your stakeholders, exhibitors, and attendees.

A big factor in gaining the confidence of stakeholders is taking into consideration the buying trends and economic impact of your industry as a whole. Evaluation of the current state of your attendees and gauging their eagerness to get back to business is essential.  More than ever, developing a robust and quality attendance list will drive companies to exhibit at your show and result in strong support from your members and shareholders.

Entering the Unknown

So, you have the support, now it’s time to execute. The most challenging factor of moving forward with your event is the lack of guidelines available from a government, facility, and industry level. The best example we have seen thus far as to safety and health standards implemented in a live event is South Korea’s KINTEX.

It is crucial that show organizers work in collaboration with vendors (facilities, decorators, a/v and beyond) to develop a strong, strategic plan.

Consider what we have seen thus far

  • Requiring all attendees, exhibitors, staff and vendors to wear face masks
  • Swapping buffets for pre-packaged meals
  • Implementing temperature checks upon entering the exhibit hall, keynotes and receptions
  • Providing plexi shields for exhibitors to rent for their booth
  • Increasing the size and implement one-way aisles to allow for social distancing
  • Requiring appointment only meetings to reduce the number of attendees on the show floor at one time
  • Arranging for hand sanitizer stations throughout your exhibit hall and education sessions
  • Creating incentives to drive pre-registration to reduce lines onsite

The Future

The conversation of how to make events safe will happen over the course of time and will evolve as we come out of this crisis. Different industries will decide to resume their live events sooner than others. For instance, we will likely see the recovery of manufacturing events far sooner than events in the health care industry. There will be safeguards that have emerged during this pandemic that will have either a temporary or permanent place in future events. A frequent review and adjustment of those regulations will be required.

Changing the mindset

Live events will recover, but it’s the mentality of our people that will take the longest to transition.  We have essentially lived in a lockdown state for over 60 days. If we take into consideration that any habitual change takes 30 days to create, the fear of travel and large crowds has been established. We need to allow a recovery period for businesses and people to feel safe in resuming business again.

Zoning in on sanitation standards

We will see facilities establish and implement sanitation and cleaning protocols to minimize risks associated with current and potential infectious disease agents. The Global Biorisk Advisory Council, a division of ISSA, a worldwide cleaning association, has launched the GBAC Star Accreditation program, our industry’s only outbreak prevention, response and recovery accreditation for facilities to drive forth these efforts. We will see levels of these standards executed in hotels, airlines, and transportation companies as well.

Implementation of technology

As we live through this pandemic, we have truly realized the convenience and necessity of technology. Through a system of trial and error, we have found successes and failures in virtual events. Most notably, we have learned how to create an additional revenue stream through virtual event components.

While I predict virtual events as a temporary answer to the current economic state of live events, there will be an increase in show organizers that implement an element of technology in their event, whether it be pre-recorded education tracks or live streamed general sessions, and from that, we will inevitably see an increase in hybrid events.

In the end

Our primary focus at Jacoby Expo & Events has been to be proactive on industry standards and share with our clients what our partners are doing to recover from this crisis and prevent current and potential health threats. We feel optimistic that live events will recover sooner than expected and will thrive with the eagerness we have felt throughout our industry to get back to what we do best – events.

Betsy Jacoby-Greenleaf, CEM  is the president of Jacoby Expo & Events, where she specializes in strategic event growth by developing both personal and professional relationships with show managers and associations to best understand their event’s demographics and forecasted industry trends.

1 Comment on When Your Event Can’t Go Virtual

  1. Editorial Staff // June 12, 2020 at 10:54 am // Reply

    Reblogged this on IAEE Blog Station.

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