Now is a great time to refresh relationships with your visitors, exhibitors, sponsors, media and industry. The face-to-face, business-to-business events industry has significantly changed in 2020. Physical exhibitions are under new safety guidelines and will be for the foreseeable future. Virtual events and exhibitions are becoming commonplace. This COVID-19 world is no longer new and (unfortunately) is our normal for now.

Most exhibitions traditionally have had a transactional relationship with exhibitors and visitors, centered around a physical event. Strategic conversations on goals and desired outcomes between organizer’s stakeholders generally were few and far between, focus groups excepted.

With the “pivot” to virtual, there is an expectation that our clients immediately (and enthusiastically) adapt to a brand new model of conducting business. For many it is without ample instruction.

Exhibitors, visitors and sponsors require a lot of attention and instruction in this Brave New COVID-19 World. Most won’t initially understand your virtual platform (regardless of what it is), know what marketing collateral to use, how to set up their digital booths, and properly staff them. It takes a lot of patience, repetition, education and very clear communication to help your clients be successful at virtual.

This new normal represents a phenomenal opportunity to help them establish goals for the virtual show and, at the same time, deepen relationships. Sadly, many companies in many industries have had personnel shake ups, so your old contacts may no longer be there, or be in that role.

Use your customer service and sales teams to schedule one-on-one calls for exhibitors and sponsors. Train your teams to assist wary clients by deconstructing the former face-to-face model with a strategy focused on practical skills suited to maximize and adapt to the new virtual platform. Remember you are helping to build a roadmap to ensure a smooth ride to success in an unchartered territory. 

Assign your marketing and conference/education teams to contact pre-registered attendees to offer introductions to the platform and engage in market research. If you have too many visitors for that to be practical, then aim for longtime visitors and newbies, with a representative sample of the rest. People love to talk about themselves when prompted correctly! Don’t forget to have your teams record all pertinent information into your CRM system. Clean data is our friend!

Reconnecting with our clients in uncertain times provides opportunities – don’t let it go to waste.

Written by Stephanie Selesnick, President, International Trade Information, Inc.