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Tradeshow Prep and Planning Tips

Planning ahead is always a great best practice. Here are some beneficial ideas with events like CEDIA Expo on the near horizon.

We’ve been begrudgingly living with Covid for more than two years now, and the show literally must go on, as they say. Live events are back in full force and people are traveling, but it’s obvious we still have lessons to learn. InfoComm 2022, one of the first major tradeshows in the U.S. that was attended en masse by our community since Covid started, provided not only a fantastic event but also some valuable reminders. The show itself was AMAZING. The show floor was full of people, products, and there was an energetic buzz coursing through the halls. All-in-all, it was a huge success. However, Covid finally got me there, and in the days and weeks that followed, many folks from our industry shared that they too had fallen ill and at least one person was still in the ICU in Las Vegas a month after the show. Clearly, we can’t avoid it entirely, but for those attending and exhibiting at shows like CEDIA Expo this September, there’s much we can do to minimize the impact.

Here are a few tips:

Expect Flight Cancellations/Delays: Some airlines are suggesting people book flights to arrive the day before one needs to be at an event so that in case there are delays or cancellations one isn’t missing the event they’re traveling to attend. I’ve also seen suggestions that if the destination is less than seven or even nine hours away, consider driving. Obviously, if you are arriving the day before an event, your hotel bookings should also be scheduled accordingly.

CEDIA Expo Floor - 2019
Photo by John Staley

Have Supplies On-Hand: Exhibitors should have Covid rapid tests, masks for staff, and hand sanitizer in the booth during booth build, during the show, and during tear down so you’re not running out to a pharmacy to get them. Communicate in advance of the show to your team what the expectation or protocol is should someone start experiencing symptoms of Covid or actually come down with it during the show. Exhibitors, be ready for your booth build or tear-down teams to get sick and be ready to bring in alternate resources. Attendees, it’s a good idea to bring supplies with you. There’s nothing worse than feeling sick and having to hop in a cab to get a test. Or accidentally grabbing the germ-infested escalator handrail and then realizing you don’t have hand sanitizer on you. Many airports don’t even carry masks in their gift shops anymore, so bring them with you; don’t expect them to be available at the airport, hotel, or convention center.

Also by Katye McGregor Bennett: On the Value of Human Interaction

Have a Quarantine Policy: Exhibitors should determine who pays for extended hotel stays and what the arrangements for employees will be should they have to go to the hospital. Communicate this to your team well in advance of the show. If you are an attendee, you also need a contingency plan in case you have to quarantine. Consider adding insurance to your flight booking. Do you have enough funds to spring for an extended stay? What will your family do if you don’t return on time? How about your pets?

Mask Appropriately: If you start to experience symptoms or have been around someone who has, mask up, buttercup. It’s a touchy subject and a personal decision for each individual, but, at the very least, kindness and consideration should reign supreme. Our community is close-knit and, for many, masks are still a necessity. Someone wearing a mask could have their own health concerns outside of Covid or need to protect a loved one with compromised health. Be respectful of what you may not know. If someone wears a mask into your booth or at a meeting you’re in, put on a mask if you’re going to be in close proximity to them out of courtesy. And never, ever, be a mask shamer. Respect people’s personal choices for their own health and safety.

Take Precautions With Communal Food Options: Any food provided in booths should be individually wrapped — that stack of cookies on a catering tray that people grab from is still not a great idea. Oh, and that plate of calamari or loaf of bread everyone is grabbing with their hands and sharing during dinner? Use a fork, spoon, or knife to get your serving to your plate rather than your hands.

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Make Your Health a Priority: In pre-pandemic times, we would run ourselves absolutely ragged at tradeshows. Walking miles in uncomfortable shoes, piling meeting after meeting after meeting, and then topping it all off with dinners and parties that last into the wee hours. Now, it’s time to put your health first. Hydrate. Get a good night’s sleep. Go outside and get some fresh air. Take time for yourself when you feel overwhelmed. Eat well. (Speaking of which, we’ll be reviving our “Dining in Dallas” blog from a few years ago, so drop me a line if you have suggestions.) In short, take better care of yourself.

The point is, we simply can’t avoid Covid, it’s part of our reality and will be for some time with new, more transmissible variants a constant threat. We don’t need to live in fear, but as a community, we should all have a plan in place and do our part to help everyone get through events with their health intact. It’s really the least we all can do to ensure events continue and that our industry prospers.