Over the last few weeks we’ve been involved in a few webinars and discussions where the topic of visitor and exhibitor confidence has arisen. We know that getting the green light from government (Get On With It Boris!) is just one hurdle in our path back to buzzing exhibition halls. What may be just as big, if not a bigger challenge, is actually getting bodies who have barely left home in almost 12 months, back onto busy show floors. But the more I have spoken to experts around the industry, the more convinced I am that it could be amongst the safest, and most regulated environments that any of us could choose to spend time in. And here’s why!

Think of Saturday afternoon in your local shopping mall (which have been open since June by the way). When you last went did you have to register your details before you visited? Did anyone communicate with you before hand about the specific safety measures that you need to abide by to keep people safe? Did someone take your temperature on arrival? Did the shopping mall suddenly expand in size to make more space for you and your fellow shoppers? Was someone proactively controlling numbers across the whole site and limiting who entered? Did anyone get in touch with you afterwards to check whether you had experienced any symptoms since your visit? I’m pretty sure the answer to all those questions is a NO!!! As a minimum you may have scanned the app at a few shops (when it works) and sanitised your hands a few times.

We’ve worked closely with association partners in developing the industry wide AllSecure Standards. The key area is around aisle width, to enable visitors to move around the exhibition floor safely whilst maintaining social distance.

Gemma Eddens, William Reed Business Media

But looking ahead to 2021 when exhibitions are allowed to re-open in the UK, all the above measures, and more, are likely to be implemented at shows across the country by experts in Health and Safety who have been mitigating risk, and keeping people alive for decades. Senior management, Operations teams and H&S colleagues working for event organisers and venues work tirelessly every day to identify, understand and mitigate risk to keep people safe and well – Covid 19 is just another risk to be managed. The good thing about the hibernation of the industry is that it has given us all time to pause, reflect, understand and plan how we can best meet the threat of the new pandemic. Nothing has been rushed through, solutions have been carefully considered, investment has been made and most importantly, there has been huge collaboration across the industry to learn and share with each other.

The UK exhibitions industry has come together in an unprecedented way to demonstrate that we can run exhibitions safely, protecting participants. Unlike other mass gatherings, we have more control over the environment and the way in which people interact.

Janice Edmunds, Operations Director, Montgomery Group

When exhibitions do re-open they will undoubtedly look and feel a bit different, but as with everything else we have learned to live with during 2020, once we all understand it’s just to keep us as safe as possible, it will feel normal in no time. In the US , event industry leaders met last week in Las Vegas to discuss the road map to opening shows again safely with measures including on-site Covid-19 testing, badges that flash red when delegates are too close to each other and an on-line digital monitor that tracks everywhere delegates have been on site (more details here). Whilst in China events have been motoring ahead with hotels reporting increasing demand from meetings and exhibitions and hybrid events still attracting over 15,000 to the show floor (click here). Because of the international travel restrictions still in place for much of the world, audiences remain largely domestic, but there remains huge opportunity for businesses to do deals locally and put their organisation firmly on the road to recovery. Event organisers in the UK are making aisles wider and creating larger spaces for networking and live seminars, venues are investing in even more enhanced hygiene measures and ways to minimise contaminated air flows, and the industry is investing in data processing, communications and technology to ensure that it is known exactly who attended and where they went from first build, to final exit.

At the time of writing this I’m not aware of any major outbreaks of Covid-19 that have been identified as coming from an exhibition hall since new guidance was brought into effect. Unfortunately it may be the case that a couple of people become ill after visiting a show, but this could easily have come from the petrol station on the way home, or hugging a child after being away for a couple of days. The risks will continue to surround us for some months to come yet but I remain absolutely convinced that with the talent, the experience and the expertise of those already mitigating risk and keeping us safe in the exhibitions industry, we have great cause for confidence that they will continue to do so.

If you’re anxious about your exhibition plans for 2021 and aren’t sure what to do next, why not get in touch and see what we can do to help clear the path and ensure you make the most of your time back on the show floor! Contact us here

Thanks to the ace Operations Gurus out there who generously contributed their thoughts to this blog!

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