David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President and CEO
International Association of Exhibitions and Events
Show organizers faced a hard and fast learning curve with the shift to virtual and hybrid exhibitions and events in 2020. Although these alternatives cannot truly replace the experience and value that the face-to-face marketplace offers, they’re a viable channel to continue bringing buyers and sellers together while B2B exhibitions recalibrate and integrate the newest health and safety measures into live events.
The most critical factor that show organizers must consider is essentially the same as it’s always been: Create a fully engaging experience for attendees and exhibitors that delivers the highest ROI on their participation in the event. What has changed for now are some of the tools by which they do this. The technology is different, and most likely more involved, than organizers are accustomed to.
The key is for them to be as informed as possible and stay up to date on these rapidly evolving platforms. Organizers must take advantage of as many learning opportunities, such as webinars, that they can. They also need to make the most of resources such as the ongoing data released by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research on how our industry is responding and adapting, as well as industry tools such as CEIR's Event Analyzer.
The industry is very eager to return to the in-person format. There is no surefire way to predict when that will be, but we are working as quickly as possible to implement health and safety measures. The best strategy in the coming year is to stay as informed as possible and IAEE will be actively updating its publication, Essential Considerations for Safely Reopening Exhibitions and Events, in an ongoing effort to provide show organizers with reliable recommendations as we strive toward a full recovery for our industry.