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Event Postponed - Now What?

Ellen Campbell-Kaminski March 20, 2020

Unless your organization only exhibits at one event each year, either in the fall or that has already occurred, chances are you have been notified that your trade show or VIP event has been canceled or postponed due to the containment efforts authorities have imposed around the Coronavirus pandemic. Once you get through the immediate tasks at hand – canceling travel arrangements, coordinating logistics with your exhibit partner, and monitoring updates from the show organizers – you will start to think about the 2nd half of 2020 and how to salvage the year as best you can.

Event Postponed

If you have received notification that your event will be rescheduled later in 2020, one of the first things you want to do is coordinate with your exhibit partner. Critical things you want to think through include:

Do you have confirmed new dates?

Get on your partner’s schedule as soon as possible. Q3 and Q4 are when many large events happen in normal years; they are normally the busiest quarters for exhibit houses. As soon as you have a new date, get with your exhibit house to lock in to their schedule.

Event be held at the same venue?

If you are at the same venue, confirm that the exhibit hall floor plan will be the same. There is a likelihood that some exhibitors may pull out of the conference because the new dates conflict with other priorities, or they do not have the marketing budget to proceed or for a host of other reasons. This could lead to openings in the exhibit hall. You may have the opportunity to improve your location on the floor. Be sure to communicate this change to your exhibit partner.

Event to be held at a new venue?

Confirm the exhibit hall floor plan dimensions and orientation. You want to be sure that your booth layout works in the new hall and discuss any modifications with your trade show partner.

Do you have the resources to exhibit exactly as you planned originally?

It may be that you’ve had to reduce your marketing budget based on the impacts of the health crisis. One potential is that you have a smaller exhibit footprint. Work as soon as possible with your exhibit house on revised plans. Is your custom exhibit flexible enough to work in the reduced space? If you need to build new custom pieces, it is best to get that fabrication underway as soon as possible. Another scenario could be renting exhibit components or an entire rental booth from your exhibit house may be your best option. Again, because the fall can be a busy time for your exhibit partner, you want to get those reservations in as soon as possible.

You may also experience reduced travel budget for your brand ambassador colleagues. Your trade show partner may be able to assist with booth staffing logistics.

Event Canceled

If you find yourself in a situation where your event has been canceled for 2020, it may initially seem that all hope is lost for the year. But, you know the power of face-to-face marketing, and while 2020 will be daunting, your program will be back in full in 2021.

That said, there is still a need to make the best you can in 2020.

In addition to supplementing your event with other marketing tactics such as content marketing, social campaigns and even traditional advertising, explore whether there are other industry events that reach your target audience later in the calendar year. You may find smaller regional events that can be a good vehicle to reach your audience but you may have to attend more of these to get the same reach. Or perhaps there is an event with an audience profile that is not a complete perfect match for who you are trying to reach. But if the audience match is close enough, now might be the time to try this event as a way to help close the gap with your goals.

Your trade show partner will be a great resource at this point as they have experience with a lot of events across the country and can advise on next best place to exhibit.

This may also be an opportunity to review those “Supplemental Marketing Options”.

Regardless of your specific situation, these weeks and months are a great time to work on refining your messaging, training brand ambassadors, reviewing inventory and building out robust attendee personas.

Supplemental Marketing Options

In the intervening months between your original event and the postponed dates, consider any options to reach your target audience. The show organizer may offer free or reduced access to attendee lists as we all work through the disruption caused.

Perhaps there is an opportunity to send literature and promotional items to target audiences. If you already shipped these to your trade show partner, check to see if they can handle the fulfillment distribution on your behalf.

Ask your exhibit house partner about options to create a virtual reality tour of your booth property that could be distributed to brand ambassadors and attendee targets.

Event marketers are adept at dealing with unforeseen circumstances and unexpected changes to plans. These are unprecedented times and we are all wondering what the future holds. But eventually, the containment efforts will be lifted and you will be back to the heavy travel, deadline-driven, unpredictable but always rewarding, world of event marketing.

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