As the world continues to tackle Covid-19, and the realisation that we will be living with the pandemic for some time to come, we are all developing new behaviours and changing the way we live and work. The new normal is evolving, but what does it mean for food and drink trade shows?
Covid 19 has shut down trade fairs across the Globe, leaving suppliers unable to meet with buyers at world leading food and drink events including Amsterdam, Paris, Tokyo, Singapore and New York.
Exhibitions thrive on bringing people together to do business, learn, inspire and meet. This fallow year has seen the emergence of stronger virtual events and online meetings, offering a new way to make connections. Show organisers are evolving these digital offers at the same time as having to convince visitors and exhibitors that it is safe to attend their event. Safety measures including wider aisles, physical distancing between delegates at events, extra cleaning and sanitising of the venue, and limiting the number of visitors in the exhibition hall at any one time will all become standard. We trust the leading venues of the world to manage this safely, but trade shows remain a major investment and an exhibitor needs a return on that investment through new business.
Trade Shows will need to bounce back as compelling, must attend events. Some shows may not survive. Others will emerge stronger by being best in class and building an offer that is fit for the new normal, in some cases having to reshape the model that has stood them well for many years.
What will these look like? Whilst no one has a crystal ball, it is clear that the hybrid event with an interactive virtual offer running alongside a physical event will become standard. The benefits in the short term where travel is difficult are obvious, but longer term visitors can be more organised in planning their time, with the tools that allow better research of exhibitors and fixing appointments in advance. Exhibitors will bring their personality and corporate values alive through video and imagery, to stand out in a way that a printed list and a website never could. Carrying around a heavy brick of a catalogue for 3 days may well be consigned to history! Plus the virtual event can extend the life of a trade show beyond its open days into a year round community of contacts. A real bonus for everyone.
Planning for many shows in 2021 is already underway. Our team are actively recruiting UK food and drink companies for shows in Q1 of 2021. It’s understandable that confidence in attending is mixed and committing when there is still so much uncertainty is difficult for everyone. Suppliers are keen. Stands are being booked. We just need to hear that buyers are going to turn up.
New behaviours will take time to get used to and become our new normal, but our sector needs to get back to face to face interaction to encourage innovation and build business. Meeting existing customers, launching new products, catching the eye of a buyer are still best done at trade shows. As we all build our business through the virtual world, and master our online presentation skills, we look forward to getting back on the road and to the first day of the first major food and drink trade show. Until then, see you online!
Sandra Sullivan MBE
Director, PS8 Ltd
Creating Export Success for UK food and drink companies