Getting Ready to Safely Resume Your Live Events Program

by | Jul 1, 2020

Preparing for a safe return of the live events industry is important for everyone. And show venues, show managers, airlines, restaurants, hotels, casinos are all working on safety standards and protocols to ensure that exhibitors and attendees feel safe – and are safe – traveling to and attending live events.

A lot of these standards will be the responsibility of the venue and show management. For instance, venue sanitation, setting up touchless registration systems, temperature checking all visitors and gating people onto the show floor. Some will also be the responsibility of exhibitors and their exhibit providers – impacting both exhibit design and day-to-day exhibit management.

But it may be a while before a single shared set of protocols – or at least a clear and common set of minimum requirements – is established that is shared by everyone. So, we want to take the time to outline some of the requirements that exhibitors need to be thinking about – and acting on – now as they consider the safe resumption of their live exhibits and events programs.

We’ll break these down into seven areas that largely impact larger, custom tradeshows:

1. Opening Up Your Booth Space
Comfortable social distancing will be a mandate under any set of protocols. So, opening up your floor plan will let you allow more visitors in and minimize any potential wait times to enter. One way to do this is to get a larger booth space. If that isn’t on the table, modify your current floor plan to allow visitors to spread out comfortably. Simple formulas can help you decide how many people can safely be in a space at one time.

As you redesign the space you also may want to consider the materials used in your booth – including structure and furniture – choosing or changing these to make them easier to wipe down and keep clean. For instance more smooth surfaces, and leather or vinyl clad furniture vs. fabric. Don’t forget to leave some room in your revised floor plan for safety precautions like hand sanitization stations, mask distribution or value-added services like UV light cellphone cleaning stations.

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2. Reducing On-Site Personnel
With social distancing requirements, it’s important to consider how many people are needed to set up, take down, manage and staff your booth from day to day. One suggestion is to simplify your booth design – and create a more open floor plan. This can minimize labor required to set up, manage and strike your exhibit – while significantly reducing your go-to-show costs. Another is to staff your booth with the people who most want to be there and are good at engaging potential customers. That might not always be your salespeople. And Covid-19 aside, studies have shown that the right, properly trained people staffing your booth are one of the biggest opportunities exhibitors have to boost performance.

All that said, you might want to consider – and you may be required – to augment your on-site staff with an active sanitation crew during show hours to build everyone’s comfort.

3. Map the Journey
You’ve probably all been to a store that has been blocked off to create one way in and out, and to force store traffic in a one-way flow through the store.

That’s the basic idea here. While a single entrance and exit – or a one-way path through the booth – may not always be the right solution, ensuring too many people aren’t in the booth at one time or crowded around your top attractions will be. So, work with your exhibit house to develop a journey map of how you want people to move through the booth – including where you may want to place stations for hand sanitzation or mask distrbution. The goal is to allow visitors to experience what they want while avoiding overcrowding and pinch points. You’ll need to be ready to talk about expected visitor count, average time spent in the booth, what the top draws in the booth will be, booth staffing and what you may be prepared to leave behind to open up floor space. You will also need to discuss how to play ‘traffic cop’ during the show to keep people from being rushed, dawdling, or too many people from getting in at once.

4. Wayfinding and Navigation
Once you know your visitor journey, make it clear to your staff and visitors too. Here are a few ways to do that. Use structure to create pathways. Mark pathways on the floor with graphics or the flooring itself. Use social distancing reminder graphics or build subtle barriers to guide people and remind them to keep their distance. If visitors need to wait at any point on the journey for others to move on – that waiting space is an opportunity to entertain and reinforce your key show messages. Use it.

5. Safer Interactions
There are going to be spaces in your booth where you expect booth staff and visitors to interact. That’s what shows are about. So, how can you encourage these interactions while keeping people safe and feeling comfortable. Ideas include:

  • Opening up any enclosed spaces by removing or minimizing walls – for instance in a conference room
  • Designing spaces to allow people to stand or sit further apart from each other
  • Setting up clear, plexiglass barriers between people – for instance – between seats at a conference table, between seating areas in a lounge, or in front of your reception desk

6. Supersizing Your Visuals and Graphics
Approachable, inviting and visually engaging graphics, live or digital demos and video displays have always been important. But now you need to consider how to allow viewers to be further away from your these and from each other. One solution is to just make your graphics and digital screens bigger. If that’s not in the cards, design your content to be simpler, with larger images and copy.

7. Touch-Free Everything
Consider what people need to touch in your booth space – and then figure how to make most – or all of it – touch-free. Badge scanning has already made lead collection touchless. But there are lots of other cool technologies that can help you do more. Instead of handing out literature, apps and near-field technologies allow visitors to collect info digitally (brochures, videos, contact info and more). For instance, just by waving their badge in front of marked spot on a graphic. QR codes can do the same. Interactives can be activated by voice – and by gesture (think Xbox Kinect) or even pressure activated flooring. And don’t forget to leave the tchotchkes back at the office for now.

We’re continually monitoring evolving live event protocols. Currently it seems likely that they’ll end up somewhat different from venue to venue, show to show and even state to state. But there will be commonalities that you can prepare for now. We’re, of course, ready to help you. For more on adapting to changing realities see our post on Marketing Strategies for Winning Responsibly in the New World of Live Events.