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The new normal

by EN

Following UFI’s publication of the Global Framework for Reopening Exhibitions and B2B Trade Events post Covid-19 on 20 May, EN has partnered with stand design agency Prodigio to create a visual interpretation of what an exhibition could look like when events are permitted to return.

There is little doubt that when exhibitions do return in the UK that there will need to be health and safety processes in place, and that the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) is available to visitors.

We are edging closer to the goal of seeing events resume as Covid-19 cases and the UK government starts to ease restrictions. UFI, the global trade association for the exhibitions industry, and which works with the UK’s trade bodies, the AEO, AEV and ESSA, was the first organisation to publish a 30-point guide to reopening exhibitions.

The guide, known as, The Global Framework for Reopening Exhibitions and B2B Trade Events post Covid-19, sets out five key areas for organisers and venues to work to; ensure personnel and personal safety, enable physical distancing, increase health and safety measures, implement crowd control and encourage and enforce measures. From these ideas UFI was able to then create a list of points that organisers, and venues should consider when planning for future events.

To create the framework UFI worked with businesses from all over the world including a selection of UK companies including Clarion Events, Informa Markets, Reed Exhibitions, Tarsus Group, Freeman, GES and the NEC.

Managing director and CEO of UFI, Kai Hattendorf, said: “Exhibitions are distinct from other large events. Crowd management, visitor flow and adherence to operational protocols can be tightly managed. A strong framework provides a compelling case for the recommencement and continuation of this vital industry. By pledging to ensure the health and safety of all exhibition participants, tradeshows can resume their rightful place as a proven fast track to trade and market recovery.”

More importantly, UFI’s plan demonstrates that exhibitions can be ‘controlled’ and ‘organised’ and should not be treated by governments as simply ‘mass gatherings’. The plan also shows us that through using the latest technology, physical distancing guidelines and health and safety measures, there are little or no reason why events should not be allowed to safely return.

To illustrate, EN partnered with stand design agency Prodigio Design to recreate UFI’s vision as a graphic to help people understand how exhibitions can work.

Prodigio Design MD Richard Dilley, who has worked with  Visit California and Caterpillar, explained: “This is an incredibly important project for us to work on. There are many lengthy documents flying around the industry, but we felt that it was essential to try and summarise these ideas in a series of graphics for EN.

“At Prodigio, we pride ourselves on creating beautiful bespoke and tailored stand designs to meet our client’s needs and requirements. However, in these challenging times, we are conscious that the safety of our clients and their visitors is paramount to ensure the success of a live show. It is also fair to say that the level of investment by exhibitors will understandably be reduced during these uncertain times.

“Apart from creating what an exhibition could look like when they return, we are also stand designers, and the first consideration in our design process is always the meaningful journey and flow of visitors throughout the stand. This is no different even with the presence of Covid-19, we simply have a new set of rules and factors to contemplate. It is also important that visitors feel relaxed throughout their experience. By combining a practical approach to the layout, together with the implementation of Perspex screens, we can develop a stand into a fully functional working environment.

“The provision of safe demo spaces, one-to-one meeting areas and meeting rooms ensures that important private business engagements can still be conducted, albeit in a safe and controlled environment. With the practical flow taken care of, we can then concentrate on utilising the structural elements for branding and making each stand exclusive to the individual exhibitor. Furthermore, there is an abundance of space for messaging and video content can be employed to keep the visitors engaged.”

As a result of two weeks’ work, Prodigio and EN were able to come up with a series of visuals.

The Show Floor

Designated visitors arrive at the exhibition during an allotted time, and are required to wash their hands and collect face masks in the sanitisation area before they start queuing.

Those visitors that have preprinted badges or smart badges will then join the ‘I have my badge’ queues, while those that were unable to print or download their smart badge will join the ‘collect badge’ queue, marked here in red.

The queuing system is marked out with floor markings highlighting the physical distance visitors need to observe. Further signage next to the queuing system will remind visitors that they need to remember to physical distance.

All visitors must then pass through a thermal imaging camera or undergo an alternative method for having their temperatures checked.

If the camera records a high temperature, the visitor will be asked to go to the isolation area in the top left corner of the image, where they will receive medical advice or be able to leave through a separate exit if required.

Visitors will be able to wait in this area ahead of taking another reading after they have had time to cool down.

The show floor uses a one-way system to ensure that visitors are kept at a safe distance from each other. There is also a catering area using the same queuing system and serving only pre-packed food to minimise contact. The seminar theatre has seating spaced further apart, but content can be shown in other designated areas.



Clear signage reminding visitors to adhere to physical distancing. The badge collection queue leads to the registration area where visitors can print their badges using either facial recognition, QR codes, barcode scanning or entering details. Visitors will be reminded to download the physical distancing app that traces who a visitor comes into contact with throughout the exhibition.

Stand Example

Prodigio has designed a stand concept that is essentially a miniature version of the event.

Upon entering the stand, visitors are encouraged to sanitise and then follow a queuing system. They can see products and services that are being sold on the stand and view a videowall for more information. If a visitor wants to meet with someone on the stand, they enquire at the reception, which is fitted with screens, or use the digital meeting system. Visitors have the opportunity to prearrange meetings using registration software.

Meeting areas are open plan to allow greater airflow and are fitted with screens to reduce contact between people. A four-way meeting room fitted with screens would also be available.

Inside the New Normal

To some degree, every element inside an exhibition already supports the idea of ‘organised exhibitions’, and much of the existing products and services can be enhanced to meet the potential new requirements.

Scheduling arrival times using registration system software will ensure that halls avoid overcrowding. Contactless registration systems that use facial recognition, QR codes or barcode scanning will allow visitors to pass seamlessly through registration areas and minimise physical contact with other visitors.

Signage will also play a key part in informing visitors as to where they need to go as well as what direction they need to take to navigate the event safely.

Thomas Walczak, head of product at EventIgnite, which works with Reed, Clarion and Informa, and creates digital signage, said: “By combining with intelligent sensors and heat maps, digital signage gains superpowers, with the ability to automatically control access to specific zones or theatres, estimating current wait times, and directing visitors to streaming theatres if the live one is nearing capacity.”

Signage company Photo Cutouts has adapted their signage businesses to create hand sanitiser stations that can be positioned at entry points and on the show floor.

Laura Hughes, marketing manager, said: “Hand sanitising has suddenly become at the forefront of event planner’s minds and providing facilities to do so helps exhibitors and delegates feel confident hygiene has been considered. As we have been manufacturing freestanding and portable photo cut out boards for the exhibition market for a number of years, it made sense for us to adapt our existing product for a new purpose.”

Disinfect Group UK has a range of sanitisation products to support venues and organisers including; temperature checking, attendee management, hand sanitisation, and head to toe misting. The company has agreed a distribution deal with beMatrix for structure and build and Service Graphics as the main re-seller.

Disinfect Group UK, CEO, Tom Eatenton, said: “We are in conversation with major venues around the UK and internationally, and the world’s largest event producers, offering tailor made solutions for their events and venues in order to get the sector moving again.”

There are a myriad apps, including the NHS Covid-19 App, that can trace peoples’ movements and who they have been in contact with. Providing everyone who is at the exhibition signs up to use an app these can be an effective tool in the fight against Covid-19.

Crowd Connected, an app that shows visitor movements and more importantly who they came into contact with by displaying heat maps has been around since 2015.

Mark Maydon, commercial director, said: “Using tracking data collected from an exhibition’s mobile app enables real-time heatmaps, dashboards and analytics which can help organisers with flow and density management, as well as identifying areas which have been busiest, for prioritising cleaning and sanitisation as well as other contagion mitigation policies. Metrics from one show can inform planning decisions for the next. Additionally, the same technology can deliver on-premises contact tracing.”

There are also a vast array of thermal cameras and some venues have already installed these devices to temperature screen visitors as they arrive. There are both handheld and fixed optical and thermal cameras, and there is also a facial and thermal camera that detects if a visitor is not wearing a face mask that is available from 2CL Communications.

During build there are a number of apps that can help to ensure that contractors observe physical distancing. Teem Services has created software that allows floor managers, and safety monitors to photograph and describe any contraventions and attach them to a PDF floorplan of the show. This software could be extended to when the event is live creating an effective way to monitor and track anyone that is disregarding physical distancing.

In the July issue of EN we will comprehensively cover the products and services that are available to venues and organisers to help create safer exhibitions.

For more information on the UFI framework, visit www.ufi.org/coronavirus

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