COVID-19 and Events: Trade Show and Conference Outlook
by MHI Director of Sales, Greg Baer | @GbaerGreg
A long-time material handling industry peer and friend, Rob Brock, posed a question to me this morning on LinkedIn.
Obviously there is a lot of unknown in the world today. We are all facing new challenges and questions. Just yesterday I learned that I could help my youngest son build a Rube Goldberg Machine for his end-of-year project while simultaneously answering emails from my customers. I thought I would post my response to his inquiry in case there are other MHI members considering this same question.
What is going to happen with the trade show and conference industry?
As many of you know, MODEX 2020 was held in March at about the exact time COVID-19 was beginning to show up in the US. The decision made by MHI leadership to keep the show open was not made in haste and followed the council of local, state and federal agencies at the time. There was a lot to consider. Health, safety, time and money invested by over 900 exhibitors that were putting the finishing touches on booth builds. Hindsight shows it was the correct decision when you factor in all the alternatives at the time. After MODEX closed, we made a significant investment to develop a new program called MODEX 365 (www.modexshow.com) that is allowing MODEX 2020 to exist virtually well after the show has closed its doors.
Looking forward towards ProMat 2021 (www.promatshow.com) in April, we are proceeding as planned while researching and planning alternatives should travel restrictions remain or new regulations exist. The show floor is still about 98% sold out and we have sold over 3,000 square feet in the last two weeks to new exhibitors, so companies are still looking at the show as an opportunity. The industry and exhibitors our shows feature have been critical in keeping global supply chains moving. As the world begins to reopen, our industry will power up the global supply chain and ProMat 2021 is poised to deliver the latest material handling and logistics solutions our industry has to offer. However, the health and safety of our exhibitors, attendees, partners, and staff remains the number one priority of MHI.
As far as the trade show and events industry goes as a whole, organizations are developing new health and safety standards for the industry. Hotels are developing new health and cleanliness standards. There are new cleanliness standards being developed like ISSA’s Global Biorisk Advisory Council® GBAC STAR accreditation program for venues to fight things like COVID-19. Details about GBAC STAR can be found in the link¹ below. The IAEE (www.iaee.com) is leading the charge on developing safe and healthy ways to reopen face-to-face events.
Our trade show partners, Freeman and GES, are actively engaged in developing new ways for trade shows to exist like factoring in social distancing on trade show floors. As an industry, our challenge is to exceed the expectations of our customers for face-to-face events as we look to get things back up and running.
UFI is a European based association representing the trade show industry. UFI is smaller than IAEE, but members include the large, independent show organizers based in Germany, UK and France. The document linked² below has a lot of interesting information and relevant content.
Ultimately, face-to-face is still very important. This global pandemic has strengthened my belief that nothing can replace visiting a customer or prospect or vendor in person. The virtual tools we have all been using are fantastic and a lot can be accomplished with the technology. But we need, at least I need, face-to-face.
I love witnessing MODEX and ProMat attendees experiencing a demo of some new and innovative solution in a trade show booth before buying. I get excited when I see pride in an exhibitor’s face while talking to a prospect about a new product she is showing in her booth. I cannot wait to stand next to the marketing person on the Sunday before the show opens and admire the booth that he’s designed tirelessly for months. I miss sitting down with MHI members in their facility and listening and feeling the excitement as they discuss what makes their company unique and great. MHI is committed to making sure our shows will go on with health and safety as our guiding principle.
²UFI Reopening the Exhibition Industry Post COVID-19 https://www.ufi.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Framework_for_reopening_the_exhibition_industry_Post_COVID-19.pdf