Because tradeshows are so effective and efficient in the marketing mix, exhibitors put up with the intrinsic costs, challenges, schedule disruptions, and sore feet. With the added challenge of Covid’s impact on our travel, our psyches and potentially to our health, the appeal of interacting with hundreds of people in a quick few day is understandably questionable?
But, what if most of the people you’d see were prospects, clients, future business partners and they had committed to safely entering a dedicated safe business bubble? As an exhibiting company, you too had to commit to certain actions and limitations; however, by doing so you would gain access to a safe tradeshow environment and business development accelerator.
The idea of a “bubble” emanates from actions taken by several Major League Sports leagues. They brought together competing teams including players, coaches, trainers, managers and administrators to a common location. League officials, referees, and in some cases limited fans too, adhered to pre-bubble restrictions on personal activities and had to maintain a regimen of limits during the bubble time.
Testing was also a factor. We’ve seen both individual athletes (exhibit booth staffers) and entire teams (exhibiting companies) banned from participation or entry to the safe bubble when testing showed positive cases. And once in the bubble(s) various monitoring and testing continued.
While show owners and producers, venues and general contractors all have their roles to play in achieving and maintaining a safe return to exhibiting, exhibitors too have special Covid-19 precautions to execute. Here is a sample taken from NPE – The Plastics Show’s Preliminary guidelines for exhibitors:
✓ Eliminate roadblocks, booth properties, or furnishings that result in attendees gathering closely.
✓ Adequately staff each booth to effectively monitor the clustering of attendees and booth personnel, and proactively address any issues as they happen. Consider assigning this monitor as a job function.
✓ Consider touchless (electronic and digital) alternatives for engagement, collateral material, and giveaways.
✓ Incorporate signage promoting health and safety best practices.
✓ Plan for cleaning of spaces and surfaces throughout the day, along with bio-enhanced cleaning practices before and after each day of the show.
✓ Employ plexi-barriers, if applicable.
✓ Consider open-air meeting space versus enclosed areas without proper ventilation.
✓ Create safe space—wide counters, spaced apart that are cleaned regularly after usage.
✓ Large island booths,400 sq. ft or larger, should consider providing stanchions and designated entrances/exits to control attendee movement.
✓ Smaller booths should consider minimizing unnecessary booth structures to allow adequate space for physically distanced conversations.
✓ Siderails may be increased from 3’ to 8’ between in-line and perimeter booths
✓ Add floor decals at 6-foot intervals as a reminder for physical distancing.
The safe business bubble concept (not the NPE rules above) would also have individual exhibit companies bear responsibility for their staff/employees:
· Being formally educated on then meeting the pre-bubble testing and quarantine requirements
· Adhering to the life in the bubble limitations (such as a safe expo hotel bar vs. going out of the bubble for entertainment; meals are on-site in the bubble restaurants, it’s possible that parties don’t happen and private meeting sizes are limited).
· Operating within special Covid-19 booth guidelines (similar to NPE above)
On the one hand, that whole bubble thing is a giant pain and clearly not an inducement. But let’s re-phrase: We need and want to open up our industries and the business pipeline again. We need to interact. We need to introduce new products and services. We need re-establish and re-enforce relationships. We need to re-fill pipelines and see what the rest of our industry is up to. Even if there are more fist-bumps than handshakes and hugs, we need to look our clients in the eyes without it being a zoom call.
Like the Champagne that winning athletes celebrate with, the more “Bubbly” the safer it is!
Next: a Bubble’s impact on a local economy