New exhibition dates: too early to celebrate?

June 26, 2020

Companies in countries where the presence of coronavirus is not as dramatic have started imposing certain regulations that are much more loose. Exhibition World reports that Western Australia decided to be the one paving the way forward lifting the Phase 4 Covid-19 restrictions ( aka now exhibition centers will operate at 50% capacity). Even more, they will move forward even with the removal of the 2sqm rule coming 18th of July, when they enter Phase 5.

And they are not alone. There is a reopening wave that is also sweeping Europe, everybody feverishly (pun intended) trying to push forward with getting the exhibition industry up and going. Switzerland has set the date of 22nd June for allowing events of up to 1000 people and that threshold will be removed coming this September. Germany has set a reopening date for 31st of August and just behind them, France, reopening and allowing exhibitions to restart as of 1st of September. Certain venues in the UK are also planning on reopening, but they are the British, so we never know what they will actually do.

Of course, these news are exciting for anybody that works in the industry, even for us, but are we truly ready to risk our health and safety? Are we ready to sacrifice grandma for the economy? Because the former Van Halen frontman surely is. Anything in the name of restarting the economy, right? It would be easy to say that this is just an easy copout for the usual capitalist to provide a reason for his money-hungry pockets to be full again. 

There is truth in the drive to go back into the midst of it. We know that the sector brings a lot of money, organizing a single event organized professionally has on average over a $5 million budget. Over six million international participants generated $38 billion of meetings direct spending, and that is not even the total revenue of the sector, but rather only 11.5% of the total.

We need to move with grave maturity forward. A second wave of Covid-19 may be upon us if we don’t consider the medical precautions of utmost importance. We can’t just go foolishly into the first open exhibition event thinking that the virus is behind us, an ugly and long-forgotten memory. Even more, a poll revealed that many people are reluctant to join again in social situations and would rather wait it out, either for when things get a bit better or for a vaccine.

So what we should rather do is to rethink our need for physical presence at exhibitions and events. A call to digitize even this aspect is needed to ensure the wellbeing of exhibition-goers. Many have resorted to holding their exhibition online, rebranding them and calling them “Online Events”. ( The name is unfortunate, given the fact that you can also call an online event some Twitter beef that somebody had with a baby boomer.) Virtual reality could also be considered an option to be employed to further secure the existence of this sector, simulating the feeling of being there while, you know, not risking your and other people’s lives. Developing apps, websites, or other digital environments would only serve to develop both the exhibition and IT industry. A shift towards it can be already seen. EventBrite has listed almost as a majority just online events: online masterclass, digital labs, virtual conferences and anything in between

Options and alternatives to keep the industry going without sacrificing good ol’ grandma are plenty, we just need to be willing to transform and accept the change that has been brought upon us. Adapting to the new normal is the only way to go forward.

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