Exhibition World Issue 5 – 2021 - Page 17

SISO

Key learnings from pandemic-era show producers

By Danica Tormohlen , editor-at-large , Society of Independent Show Organisers ( SISO )
s trade shows ramp up around the globe , organisers are gaining more experience with producing safe , successful events despite some new challenges . The key takeaway : Buyers in attendance are eager to buy , discover new products , meet with existing vendors , find new suppliers and network with peers . Exhibitors , particularly small and mediumsized enterprises , are reaping the benefits of the return to live .
Since the pandemic , SISO and UFI have produced eight case studies on how events are being held safely and how exhibitors and attendees are responding to the return to live . At the SISO Summer Conference in August , I moderated a panel with three of those show producers , including Tricia Barglof , executive director of the OFFPRICE Division for Tarsus Group ; Mel Montes , director of business development & marketing of Airport Experience News ( AXN ) Conference for Clarion Events North America , and Eric Udler , owner , All Show Services , producer of Super Pet Expo and the New Jersey Home and Garden Show .
What ’ s trending in the US ? Here are seven key learnings from that SISO panel :
1 . What ’ s the buzz on site ? For the OFFPRICE Show , 7-10 August in Las Vegas , “ attendees were there to do business , network and meet new people ,” said Barglof . “ We had new attendees who have been experiencing inventory challenges and were desperate for product .” At the AXN Conference , held 15-18 August in Dallas , Montes said : “ While our numbers were smaller , we had 10 new exhibitors . Some big companies sponsored instead of exhibiting . We offered more valueadds , like an Innovation Stage on the show floor with presentations by exhibitors .”
2 . Trends in exhibitor re-sign rates . While AXN had 50 % fewer exhibitors , 30 % rebooked on site . “ Some exhibitors were willing to sign multi-year deals ,” said Montes . Barglof added : “ We offered a loyalty rate for exhibitors who supported the shows . The number of exhibitors was 50 % of our prepandemic level , but 50 % rebooked , about the same percentage as a non-pandemic year .” Udler reported Super Pet Expo rebooked “ half of what we usually do , but 95 % of our exhibitors are small businesses .”
3 . Staffing and labour around the show . “ It ’ s been impacted ,” Barglof said . “ Shipping into the show
Above : Danica Tormohlen
Exhibitors , particularly small and mediumsized enterprises , are reaping the benefits of the return to live
was a challenge for our August event .” She said OFFPRICE didn ’ t experience any staffing issues with general contractor services , but there were some challenges with non-union services like catering , cleaning and security . Many hotels , restaurants and transportation services were not yet fully staffed . “ Plan extra time , make reservations , and schedule rideshare services ,” advised Barglof . Montes added : “ We noticed staffing issues , but our customers are also challenged to hire , too .”
4 . Marketing and communicating in the pandemic era . “ We sent weekly emails and talked to the C-suite regularly ,” Montes said . OFFPRICE created ‘ Health and safety : Know before you go ’ videos that were shared via social media , email and the show website . So , what of the communication strategy if there are Covid cases after the event ? “ We would turn it over to the local health officials for contact tracing and reporting ,” Barglof said .
5 . Supply chain issues impacting exhibitors . “ Some exhibitors had to cancel because they didn ’ t have product ,” Bargloff said . “ We felt the impact in the short term , but we are hearing predictions that the issues will be resolved by 2022 .”
6 . Vaccinations for staff . “ We did not require vaccinations for staff , but they had to have a negative Covid test result to travel to the show without a vaccine ,” Barglof said and Montes noted Clarion ’ s policy was the same .
7 . Planning now vs . then . “ Everyone is making decisions so late ,” Montes said . “ It didn ’ t look like our event was coming together until the last two weeks before the show .” Barglof added that they had held out as long as possible on signage , “ because we heard the mask mandates might change ”.
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