By Nooraishah Omar
The global COVID 19 pandemic has permanently changed the trade and exhibitions industry. It is almost certain that virtually all industry conferences, tradeshows and exhibitions were cancelled or postponed with no viable confidence of any future dates in 2020. Over 500 tradeshows and exhibitions have been cancelled or postponed globally.
Tradeshows and exhibitions have managed to attract businesses from around the world by providing business opportunities in one place.Therefore, cancellations and postponements not only affected the trade organizers but also its participating companies.
One of the biggest tradeshows in the paper industry, ZELLCHEMING-Expo has announced the event’s 2020 edition is deferred to 2021. ZELLCHEMING-Expo 2020 was supposed to be held on 24–25 June 2020. Putting the health of its exhibitors, visitors, partners and employees as its top priority, President at Mesago Messe Frankfurt GmbH, Martin Roschkowski said, “The decisions was not an easy one for us, nor is it for other trade fairs organizers worldwide, who are facing similar challenges due to the current situation.”
“As much as we regret the cancellation of this year’s exhibition, we look to the future with confidence–better times will come again,” added Gerrit Lund, Chairman of the Board of ZELLCHEMING e. V. “Within the Association, we would like to use the time ahead to develop ideas and work intensively on new concepts for the association and the event. We are already looking forward to seeing you all again at the ZELLCHEMING-Expo 2021.”
Another major paper industry tradeshow in Asia, Asian Paper & Tissue World Bangkok 2020, has postponed its show to 9–11 Sept 2020. The show was scheduled to take place on 10–12 June 2020.
Though many organizers are deferring their events to either end of this year or next year, many are finding it difficult to re-organize an event when there is no real timescale to work on. The future is literally unpredictable, with some predicting the virus to resurface in the winter while some are expecting second or third waves to hit earlier recovered countries.
As of 1 June 2020, the total number of COVID 19 cases worldwide has reach over 6 million confirmed cases and over 370,000 deaths, according to WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID 19) Dashboard, and the numbers are climbing day by day.
The paper industry and trade organizers need to look for new ways to connect with people and to bring forward their products. It seems that the time has come for us to adapt to a new way of marketing and communications. Organizers are already turning to technologies to enhance their events, on top of using digital marketing to promote their events. Several organizers also have already taken to delivering live stream conference contents to delegates sitting at home.
Industry players will also have to explore digital advertising through other means in order to reach out to potential clients and to connect to people. They can opt for webinars. Webinars can connect players directly to their audience and put a face and a voice to their brand. If the company has a strong community, it can promote an event itself, bringing in team members that could manned “the floor/booth”. To reach a broader audience, it can consider using a third-party publisher, who can come up with promotional package that may include banner advertising and email pushes that reach far beyond its existing database.
Social media platform is also a good stand-in. Industry players can use social media as a direct line of communication to inform their clients about their updated event plans. Conversations may have occurred just like at an actual tradeshow, making it another opportunity for networking.
Virtual events and conferences could be the “new normal” in the future. However, human need to interact face-to-face may result in a timely recovery of events and exhibitions. The trade industry can lead the way in demonstrating and balancing the need to assemble and interact with a real awareness of the need to maintain safe practices and self-isolation for those with illness. These may include social distancing and “no handshakes” in the future.
Most importantly, trade organizers need to guarantee the welfare of its visitors, exhibitors, speakers and employees. All of us need to keep in mind that a healthcare crisis is never fun to talk about but it can never be ignored.
(Photo source: World Health Organization)