Exhibition stands, Conferences and Live events; lets design a better future
Posted by Tom Oakes
As we move into week 10 of the Covid-19 lockdown I am sure many of us will be wondering when all this will end. As we have all adapted to new routines and a new way of living it is easy to forget what “normal” feels like and what does normal really mean.
As we move to ease lockdown restrictions, we in the Exhibitions and Events industry know that there is still a long way to go until large scale live events will be able to re-open. However, we can use this time positively to start to think about how we can design a better future for exhibitions, events and conferences. Show organisation and exhibition stand design will be key.
1/ Health & Safety
As the World’s focus is on Health and Safety and helping to stem the spread of coronavirus, it is imperative that the events industry takes steps to ensure that we cannot only open safely but also make permanent changes that will help prevent spread in the event of any future pandemics or spikes in Corona contractions. As the news emerges of contagion hotspots around the Champions League Game held in Liverpool just prior to lockdown and the Cheltenham Festival it has become clear that large scale live events including exhibitions and conferences need to be able to offer assurances that the general public can attend such events safely.
2/ Supermarkets taking the lead
We can learn a lot from the approach taken from the UK’s supermarkets, the unsung heroes of our response to the Corona pandemic. They were required to stay open and adapt quickly to new regulations and methods of working and staff were asked to risk exposure to Covid-19 whilst ensuring the country remained fed. By implementing and regulating how people entered and exited their shops and adhering strictly to social distancing regulation supermarkets were able to accommodate large numbers of people through their doors safely. When planning our future exhibitions and events we should consider the space available for visitors to be able to pass down our aisles, we should encourage clear and demarked routes through our shows and create space for visitors to pass at a safe distance where potential bottle necks may appear. In addition, we have seen in the US the compulsory wearing of masks in order to shop at many supermarkets and shops and the data shows that this does help contain the spread of the disease. In the short term at least, as shows prepare to open again we should consider how we can encourage visitors to wear masks and where possible provide PPE.
3/ Wash your hands
We all know, the simplest and most practical advice we have been given regards stemming the spread of the coronavirus is to wash our hands. This continues to be a key message from leaders throughout the world. Shows events and exhibitors themselves can take the opportunity to promote this message not only in the short term but for the foreseeable future. As well as offering clearly marked stations for visitors to wash their hands venues should be offering fixed hand sanitation points as a matter of course.
4/ Better design
As well as venues and show organisers, exhibitors have to take their responsibility seriously when they design their space only exhibition stand. It’s important to think not only about your branding and key messaging but also how visitors to your stand will interact once they have entered the space managed by you and your staff. Creating enough space for visitors to pass from one area of the stand to another at a safe distance will be key, creating useable, working spaces to be able to hold meetings at a safe distance will also be required. Technology can help, wireless headphones for seminars and demonstrations will help people be able to hear without crowding together, this is a relatively cheap solution to an old problem. Where budgets can be stretched a little further, providing adequate AV screens for visitors to be able to watch seminars and demonstrations at a safe distance can also help deal with the issues of over-crowding.
To touch on an earlier point, exhibitors can also consider providing facilities for visitors to wash and sanitise their hands.
It will be absolutely key as we move forward that information on Health and Safety is delivered in a clear, concise manner to all potential show visitors, staff and members of the public. Venues and show organisers must ensure that information given states how they will work to help keep their shows safe ,making sure it is delivered and adhered to pre-show. This should be separate from the standard Health and Safety briefing and aim to use the most clear and accessible language possible. Exhibitors, again when thinking about their exhibition stand design should also consider how their Health and Safety messages can be displayed and communicated.
If we all work together, we can and will, safely open our shows and events again sooner rather than later. By taking cues and lessons from other industries reliant on high numbers of attendees we can ensure we are at the vanguard of societies return to a “New normal” bringing people together and creating truly unique brand experiences once again.