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The New Face of International Trade Shows

Monday, September 14, 2020

The international trade show is one of the most powerful tools in presenting products to new audiences and markets.  Though there are now a few trickles of life in Asia, Europe, and the U.S., the trillion-dollar worldwide industry is, for the most part, still on hold.  This past July, Richard Paullin of The International Trade Show Association of Greater Chicago invited Larry Kulchawik, a longstanding professional in trade show marketing, to discuss the new face of trade shows in the ongoing give-and-take transition the industry is experiencing due to Covid-19.  “International involvement is essential to future stability of businesses and for growth,” Kulchawik said. 

The Global Association for the Exhibition Industry (UFI) released guidance on re-opening trade shows with a framework of recommendations on how to operate exhibitions/trade fairs in a safe environment, addressing personnel and personal safety, physical distancing, health and safety measures, as well as implementation of crowd control and enforcement measures.  A new accreditation system was also developed by Global Biorisk Advisory Council®, GBAC STAR™, as the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response and recovery accreditation for facilities.  Many major hotels have already signed on.

     Colorado Convention Center
     Photo credit: Marge Walsh

Trade shows are a theatrical experience for attendees with innovative booths, sounds, lights, displays, and face-to-face spontaneous meetings.  Adjustments of behavior, entry screening, spacing protocols and one-way aisles, sponsors offering their logos on masks, and hand sanitizing stations throughout the space will become the norm for now.  There are also vendors devising new architecture of booths to accommodate distancing guidelines.  Hybrid events are also showing up offering participants the choice to be present virtually, physically at the venue, or with a healthy combination of both.

With his many years of experience, Kulchawik determined that our emotional and tactile response to interacting with someone helps determine future business.  “People like doing business with people that they like and trust,” he said, “and one of the most powerful elements that a trade show offers is meeting people in person face-to-face.”  Kulchawik predicts that virtual call platforms will get better so that online interactions will seem more real but confirms that no matter how good they improve; they will never replace face-to-face in person interactions.

Things that will certainly change are that less money will be spent and the industry will be operating on skinny budgets, digital communications will up the ante on clarity and sound so that it is a more emotional experience for people, micro events with smaller venues and less people will happen more, and prescheduled meetings will be the norm.  International trade shows will continue to grow and recalculating your strategy for global marketing is essential.  

Shipping a trade show booth internationally is convenient and affordable with “The Merchandise Passport”, aka an ATA Carnet.  The ATA Carnet is an internationally accepted customs document for the temporary import/export of goods which includes commercial samples, professional equipment, and goods for exhibitions providing you significant savings of import-duty and -tax.  Its many benefits have assisted companies expand into new global markets and its flexibility can easily accommodate these changeable times.  Call us or visit our website.  We are here to help.