How to Prepare for the Return of Live Events: Part 2

We hope Part 1 of this piece (check it out if you haven’t already) energized you and made you feel optimistic for the future. We believe in-person trade shows will return—but what will they look like when they do?

Very much on brand with the rest of 2020, we are not exactly sure. But we do have some solid predictions. The differences we anticipate fall under the categories of exhibitors’ individual booth spaces, show-level practices and policies, and human interaction. We have also provided some tips and action items from our team here at EDE to help you better prepare.

New Ways to Build Trust Through Safety and Comfort in Your Exhibit

There will be expectations for every exhibitor to create a safe environment within their booth space. We anticipate that shows will require some of these, while some may be at the exhibitor’s moral discretion.

Here are some of our thoughts:

  • All exhibitors should eliminate unnecessary booth structures to allow more space for physically distanced conversations.
  • Consider using hard-surface furniture as opposed to soft-surface for ease of sanitation.
  • Larger booths will be encouraged to provide designated entrances/exits and clear pathways to keep traffic moving in one direction.
    • EDE Tip: You may consider using different types of flooring to designate different paths in the space, as well as floor decals as reminders for social distancing.
  •  Exhibitors should create sanitation schedules for high-touch surfaces within the exhibit.
    • EDE Tip: Make the schedule clearly visible to attendees to help build trust.
Open air meeting spaces
  • Exhibitors should make air flow a priority.
    • EDE Tip: Consider open-air meeting spaces (i.e. no ceiling, not completely closed off to the outside, etc.) to allow for air flow.
  • Companies should rethink giveaways and collateral. We might see more individually packaged giveaways to reduce the spread of germs.
    • EDE Tip: Turn giveaways into a way to follow up. Let people choose what they want, then you can mail it to them after. This creates a more premium experience rather than a bag full of “stuff” that will likely be left behind.
  • Food and beverage service is typically a great way to draw in attendees and keep them in your space; however, if your show allows you to have F&B, self-service will likely be banned. Exhibitors will also likely be required to utilize plexi-barriers.
  • The use of interactive technology such as virtual reality experiences will likely disappear to minimize the spread of germs through surfaces.
    • EDE Tip: Without attract mechanisms like these, you may need to get more creative—as people may be more reluctant to explore unfamiliar companies. How can you turn your brand into must-see on the show floor? Will it be through strong branding and messaging? Or maybe a technology that attendees can access on their personal devices, such as augmented reality?

Action Item: Work with your trusted exhibit partner to start brainstorming ways to make your exhibit a safer environment. The sooner you have these conversations, the more ready you will be to hit the ground running once a show is scheduled to proceed in-person.

Safety Practices and Policies to Expect From Shows

Of course, we will also see changes on a show-wide level. To kick it off with some of the no-brainers, we expect to see mask requirements and temperature checks at every show for a while.


  • Associations and convention centers will likely create wider aisles with more space between booths.
  • We expect to see many social distancing signage reminders, as well as clear signage for foot traffic patterns moving people in single directions.
  • We anticipate longer show hours with scheduled entry to maintain a limited number of attendees at any given time.
  • Although virtual events won’t replace in-person trade shows, we do foresee many larger shows providing a virtual supplement to reach the individuals that are still not able to travel or don’t feel comfortable doing so.
  • We believe industry associations and convention centers will have staff specifically designated for safety. This team will ensure all attendees are wearing masks, help to regulate traffic and maintain physical distancing, and sanitize high-touch surfaces throughout the day.

Action Item: Get ahead of the safety curve. Start exploring what is already happening at recent live events so you can get a sense of what to expect at your next live show. A great place to start is with this recap of the Together Again Expo.

How to Approach Attendee Engagement and Lower Attendance

We anticipate lower attendance for the foreseeable future, as both comfort levels and ability to travel will vary widely across the population. Although lower attendance might not sound great on the surface, we believe that the attendees that do travel will be higher quality and ready to make purchasing decisions. This means the opportunity to spend your time in productive conversations with your most qualified leads.

Gone are the days of shaking hands, exchanging business cards, and conversing in close proximity. As with most other things in life, we will need to establish a new way of forming connections and exchanging information. Instead of handshakes and standing close together, we imagine that waving (maybe elbow bumps for old friends) and chatting from a six-foot distance will become the norm. Instead of exchanging business cards, smartphone users may turn to Apple’s Air Drop or other similar Bluetooth sharing features.

Action Item: Research the latest tech to make exchanging information as simple as possible without business cards. One of our favorite LinkedIn features is the QR code that, when scanned, takes users directly to your profile. This is a great way for prospects and customers to get more than just your contact info. They can instantly learn more about you and your company, and why they will love working with you!

Prepare for the “New Normal” of In-Person Trade Shows

No one knows for sure what live events will look like when they return, but we have a good enough idea that we can begin to prepare ourselves for what is to come. Thinking about what the future of in-person trade shows looks like for your program? We’d love to brainstorm and help you out. Contact us at to get the conversation started with our team of experiential marketing experts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *