After a nine month halt on trade show activities globally, we here in North America are ready and willing to pick up where we left off but the fears and concerns about safety continue to haunt us. Until show organizers and meeting attendees feel that a trusted path has been formed to ensure safety for travel, hotels, restaurants, and meeting venue procedures in North America we will continue to be in a holding pattern. Face to face marketing will not pick up where it left off. The new Covid19 prevention habits we now follow in every day life will continue to be followed at trade shows and events moving forward. Trade show marketing strategies will also include many of the virtual communication methods we have picked up during the shut down. The return to face to face communication appears to be in sight, but will not be executed the same as in the past. It also appears that Asia and Europe are embracing Covid
safety methods more quickly in their countries and are willing to trust in their plans to continue safely.Trade show events in both Asia and Europe are being conducted, and planned, to resume within the next six months. We in the U.S. are moving forward more cautiously with few shows charging forward to resume quickly. Advocates within our industry are doing their best to jump start a return, but time will tell.
With all this being said, our community of trade show/event planners and suppliers patiently await the return of trust in the safety of face to face communication at trade show/events. We want nothing more than to get back to apply the creative methods and solutions we have accumulated over time that have helped our customers to create trusting relationships with their clients and their buyers. It is through face to face marketing that business opportunities are enhanced to create sales. For now, we all wait for the caution flag to be lifted. The suppliers who have the stamina to hang in will once again feel the joy and rewards of experiential marketing.
Regarding the concept of hanging in, it should be pointed out that this is not our first tsunami.
Over the past 60 years, our industry has weathered other storms, each driving changes to the status quo. The after effects of 911, and two financial crises, have created waves of changes we now call normal. I have now spent 50 years doing nothing but trade show marketing and have seen many exhibit companies come and go. Each company that closed helped to create new companies that fostered fresh ways of doing things. Many of the Chicago companies that did survive (like Czarnowski founded in 1947 and Derse founded in 1948) had the vision to recreate themselves and adjusted to the changing needs in the marketplace. Other U.S. cities in the East, West, and South have experienced the same to open doors for changes to evolve.
When I started my career in Chicago there were companies like Kitzing, Firks Display, Giltspur, General Exhibits, Exhibitgroup, Premier Exhibits, Fritkin-Jones, Exhibits Inc, Dimension Works, Contempo, MG Exhibits, and Heritage Exhibits that contributed greatly to our industries success. Each of these Chicago companies are now gone but their people and their spirits live on through other companies. They all have gone under due to hardships or mergers but their experiences continued to be shared elsewhere.
The recent edition of Exhibitor Magazine honored the top 40 exhibit companies in America. What was most interesting in this review were the number of U.S. companies that were founded 30-70 years ago and continue to evolve. Thirty of the forty companies have been in business over 25 years with the newer companies jumping normal with fresh innovative strategies. Many of the older companies started out specializing in one area (Czarnowski/I&D, Freeman and GES/Show Contractors, Skyline/Portables, Jack Morton/Events) with each then expanding to provide services in other areas. The success of exhibit supplier longevity in our industry is due to their ability, and willingness, to evolve. We now face many challenges with a new playing field. Our ability to adjust, keeping both eyes open, will ensure continued success in the ever changing world of trade show/event marketing. Love it or leave it, I still love it!