We are now about a year into the COVID-19 pandemic which caused massive changes to the business world. The impact of COVID-19 on trade shows was that many were forced to postpone or cancel the events. As a result of social distancing and new health regulations, innovative business practices emerged. The most prominent change to the workplace is employers allowing or requiring remote work. As people began working remotely, employers realized a virtual format might work for trade shows. Many companies implemented virtual shows in different ways. Kleen-Rite hosted virtual Master Classes, informational sessions on topics helpful to car wash owners.
You might be asking, what will 2021 look like? We spoke with representatives from various organizations who host industry trade shows. We wanted to learn about the impact of COVID-19 on trade shows during 2020 –and their plans for 2021.
Impact of COVID-19 On Trade Shows Cancellations in 2020
When the pandemic first broke out in 2020, lockdowns forced many trade show cancellations. Kim Vinciguerra, Chief Experience Officer from the International Car Wash Association (ICA), which holds “The Car Wash Show,” told us that “canceling a trade show normally is not an option.” However, 2020 introduced a pandemic into the equation which Vinciguerra said, “made moving a show easier than it normally is, but still incredibly difficult.”
The Heartland Carwash Association’s (HCA) Managing Editor Kristen Corbisiero said, “There was no choice but to make the necessary decision to cancel the original April dates for HCA’s Product Show.” The New England Carwash Association (NECA) canceled all events starting in the spring of 2020. Sheri Oken, the Association’s Executive Director, told us, “this is tough since NECA is a very social group that loves to meet in person.” Many organizations are switching to virtual formats to maintain communication with their customers and members.
Are There Cancelation Costs for Exhibitors?
Exhibitor costs will reduce when a show is canceled early. However, the closer it gets to the show, exhibitors risk not recieving a refund for their space, marketing costs, flights, etc. The HCA refunded their exhibitors and attendees. Corbisiero said, “In doing so, the HCA absorbed a lot of the costs for our members and vendors.” Some organizations cannot offer a full refund. The reason is that most booth space fees factor other costs into the overall price. Although exhibitors might not recieve a full refund Vinciguerra noted, “many organizations will offer a full rollover to the next year whenever possible.” Most organizations will make sure people receive fair treatment.
Are There Logistical Challenges?
“Canceling or moving a trade show is challenging,” Corbisiero said. “Due to the many moving pieces that occur behind the scenes of planning a trade show, such as, but not limited to, vendor set-up and product shipping, storage prior to and after the event, hotel arrangements, off-site show tours, and travel commitments from our members, it takes Herculean efforts to reschedule and cancel trade shows.”
A huge hurdle is the timing with exhibitors shipping their goods across the country for the show. Some companies begin shipping their displays, equipment, and other supplies as much as 3 weeks before a show. Vinciguerra said, “The most important factor for the ICA, when making a decision to move their show, is knowing when suppliers begin shipping. If we make a decision too late, it could cost suppliers a lot of time and money recalling those trucks after they are sent out.”
By far, the most difficult challenge is moving the show. Many venues book events 10-15 years out and a lot of events take the same dates every year. Vinciguerra said, “Very few locations fit The Car Wash Show’s size.” Generally, car wash shows are large and many venues can’t fit them leading many shows to book the same dates year after year. Moving or canceling a trade show is difficult, but it can be done.
How Will Tradeshows Be Different In 2021?
Fall and winter surges are both spreading like wildfires. With most face-to-face events canceled in 2020, many events in early 2021 are already looking at cancellation possibilities. The best scenario is that COVID-19 infections decrease enough that trade shows are viable again in the fall. Shows will follow guidelines from the CDC and local health departments to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. “The HCA has spaced out booths for our 2021 Product Show to ensure the safety of all attendees, and will encourage the use of masks and will follow CDC and health industry guidelines,” said Corbisiero.
When attending events in 2021, expect mask requirements, social distancing, changes to dining, and networking differences like not shaking hands. Some events may go for a hybrid approach with both face-to-face and digital elements. Vinciguerra said that “so much hinges on a vaccine.” At the time of our conversation, Moderna and Pfizer announced viable vaccines and wait for emergency approval. Even though events will change, the vaccine announcements provide hope trade shows will return in 2021.
Trade Shows Have Hope In 2021!
With COVID-19 cases high and vaccines announced. However, the vaccines have not yet begun to be administered at the time we wrote this article. There is still much uncertainty about face-to-face 2021 events. However, the vaccine gives us hope that we will see one another in-person in 2021, most likely in the fall. At Kleen-Rite our goal is to keep you updated with current information regarding our industry, COVID-19, and trade shows. We hope to see you all soon, and ask you to please stay safe and healthy!