Tips for Returning to Live Trade Shows

Exhibitor magazine brought together five industry professionals to discuss the current events landscape and how marketers and organizers can plan for the future.

Author: Curt Wagner       

Exhibitor webinar

Exhibitor magazine editor Travis Stanton (top left) hosted the webinar with panelists Dana Esposito (clockwise from top center), Josh Frisbie, Vickie Velji, Rita Price, and Jim Roots.

An increasing number of organizations are planning for in-person events and trade shows in a living-with-COVID environment. Five industry professionals explored how to organize events in this changed world during a recent webinar from Exhibitor magazine’s Insight series, “The Great Reengagement: How to Jumpstart Your Return to Live Trade Shows and Events.”

Moderated by Exhibitor editor Travis Stanton, the discussions covered a wide variety of topics, with panelists offering their advice for those planning a return to in-person events — from timelines to engagement strategies. Here are three topics the panelists explored, among others.

Planning Timelines

Initial planning is critical, said Vickie Velji, senior vice president of client experience at global experiential marketing agency Kubik, and planning early will help in the areas of supply chain, logistic management, and restructuring. “Our world has changed, and meeting with show managers and others — kind of doing that strategy up front — I feel that they will be more prepared to hit the ground running,” she said.

Dana Esposito, vice president of brand strategy and experience at Sacks Exhibits, offered an example of why planning early is important — staffing issues. “We’re dealing with the same things our clients are,” she said — being shorthanded and being short on experience with new hires. “That can be a problem with such compressed timelines.”

Supply-chain problems, with materials as well as labor, are a reality for everyone in the industry now, said Jim Roots, chief marketing officer at Catalyst Exhibits. “If you’re planning on doing something really cool, let your exhibit house know sooner rather than later,” he said.

Making Emotional Connections

When groups are in their pre-planning discussions, they should think about what the takeaway will be from an emotional standpoint, the panelists said. The real goal at a show is to provide attendees with a memorable, favorable, and fun experience that creates a deeper connection to a brand, according to Josh Frisbie, creative director at Hamilton Exhibits.

“Science says you need three things to form a memory,” Frisbie said. “You need a place, which in this case is an exhibit or an event. You need a story, which is the message or the journey, and you need an emotion.”

One way to solidify a deeper connection is by staffing your booth or event with the right people, Velji added. Having subject matter experts and salespeople available is important, but equally or more important is a brand ambassador, she said. “You need a friendly face, someone who is there just to say hello.”

Showing What You Stand For

Since the pandemic began, people have been focusing more on what they care about in the world, said Rita Price, senior director of strategy at Freeman, and they want to know what the brands or groups with whom they engage stand for as well.

Events represent a great opportunity for brands to demonstrate and spotlight their diversity and inclusion efforts, she said. And they can do this through their marketing and their event spaces in a number of ways:

  • Having open and transparent communication
  • Engaging employees and speakers who reflect your goals
  • Developing inclusive spaces in your actual booth
  • Providing content that is representative of all
  • Demonstrating your brand purpose in a clear way through your event activities

The full webinar can be viewed on demand on the Exhibitor website.