The Shows Must Go On

by | Nov 3, 2020 | Business

Admit it: you thought this post would be about the election results. Not a chance!

Now, let’s talk business in 2021 and how your industry might adapt.

Business trade shows and conferences have attempted to fill the need for congregation with virtual environments. Well, the results are mixed.

Industry programming, lectures, and panels easily made the shift. However, the opportunities to see and touch equipment is not there. The ability to strike up spontaneous conversations with colleagues and buyers will never thrive virtually.

We must find the right blend of live and virtual features for events that acknowledge these three realities:

  • The pandemic isn’t leaving soon, so crowded conventions and ballrooms need to change.
  • Business doesn’t grow without growth opportunities.
  • The phrase “lockdown” suggests a false binary choice.
    • There is a middle ground.

I previously wrote that the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS), the largest of its type in the world, decided to adapt and conduct its 2020 show. It took place over Halloween weekend in the yachting capital of the world: Fort Lauderdale.

 Some takeaways from the show:

  • The show looked and felt different.
    • Lighter foot traffic with enforceable patterns,
    • They required masks and had many sanitization stations,
    • An extensive information campaign made rules and protocols clear,
    • No on-site ticket purchases,
    • Plenty of outdoor space,
    • The Fort Lauderdale weather helps,
    • They showed fewer boats in all categories,
    • The show scaled-down the layout,
  • Adaptation of the “way it’s always been” worked.
    • Changing perceptions of what to expect and what the show could be, set expectations.
  • They sold yachts and yacht supplies and services.
  • The show rejuvenated professional connections.
  • The US Superyacht Association converted its large annual gathering to a hybrid event. This allowed industry engagement in a variety of ways.

How Events Adapt

Risk vs. reward—it's a business decision. We assess the environment, analyze and mitigate the risks, and seize the opportunities. We adapt. Click To Tweet

Now, none of us would choose the position we are in vis-a-vis COVID-19. However, we can choose how we respond. As organizations make 2021 plans, we should reject the binary choice of all or none. Some takeaways that can work for many conferences and conventions:

    • Smaller,
    • Outdoors; changes of venue may be overdue—negotiate a better location,
    • Consideration of traffic patterns,
    • Schedules for equipment tours (same as we do for in-person meetings),
    • Hybrid of live and virtual,
    • Touchless ticketing,
    • Use of “apps” to manage the above,
    • Food and drink venues must be appropriately spaced.

So, why did the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) make this difficult choice to proceed? And, why did the US Superyacht Association adapt to the show? Well, it’s a practical business decision—risk vs. reward. Like any business decision, we assess the environment. Above all, we analyze and mitigate the risks. Then, we seize the opportunities. We can do this.

Need help engaging with the federal government for a policy or funding your product? Schedule a call with Gene.

To get a copy of my book, Pitching the Big Top: How to Master the 3-Ring Circus of Federal Sales, or information on federal sales, visit Capitol Integration.

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