We often hear the term disruptor used in marketing and event circles but who could foresee the greatest disruptor in a generation and its effects upon our industry. The effect of Covid19 on the exhibition industry has been all-pervading, no part has been left untouched. There will be casualties, be they individual jobs, companies or venues, and the post Covid19 landscape will look very different from that which welcomed the new decade.
The sheer scale of the impact has caused everyone to have a major rethink about how exhibitions are going to be delivered in the future, will they ever return to the relatively relaxed and carefree events they once were. When lockdown happened there was the immediate clarion call of the tech sector, and the rise of proposed virtual exhibition solutions, offering to fill the gap left in the marketing armoury. For a medium that is serendipitous in nature, online is not its natural habitat, however, some events may cross over and stay virtual but most exhibitions will inevitably return to being a ‘people meeting people in a venue’ experience. Where else can visitors have a chance to meet, touch, feel, smell and taste what is around them? Exhibitions engage all the senses and they offer the “come and see this” factor when visited in groups; it is a visceral experience.
However, despite the associations harnessing the best brains in the industry to create workable guidance that will allow the opening of exhibitions, and the ceaseless efforts to ensure that the Government is aware of the scale of the sector and its economic impact, it has taken some considerable time to receive the ‘go-date’, now set for 01 October 2020. Government has, at last, recognised that in many locations, so many of local businesses they released from lockdown have located themselves strategically around exhibition venues in order to capitalise upon the millions of attendees, exhibitors, organisers and suppliers. We are the reason these businesses have customers who spend their money, this is the value of the wider exhibition economic ecosystem.
We need to seize the moment and make sure that the government recognises that exhibitions connect industries, buyers and sellers, makers and consumers, it is the engine room at the heart of our economy. We must remain highly visible and vocal about our importance to UK plc.