Postponed events are likely to resume in the last quarter of 2020. Businesses have been halted for a month now. The confusion, uncertainty and uproar that took place in the first two weeks is now slowly tranforming into feelings of acceptance and creativity. Acceptance that things will not go back to how it was before. Creativity to make best of the situation.
You see parents converting their kitchens into restaurants and rooms into playgrounds, ordinary people and even politicians suddenly becoming comedians on TikTok and businesses which used to compete are now working together.
When it comes to the events industry which requires face to face contact, the upheaval was enormous. In Malaysia alone about 700 business events were cancelled or postponed.
However, a delayed event doesn’t have to be the worst thing for exhibitors and companies planning their product campaign launches. Instead, if you look hard enough (and keep reading), you’ll find the silver lining you need to help you make your future event efforts even more productive. Here are five unexpected opportunities to get you started.
1. You can extend your timeline.
Exhibitors in every industry struggle to find enough time to get all of their trade show preparations completed properly. But now you have at least a few extra months to finish what you’ve started. As soon as you know the new dates for your event, add those to your calendar. Work backwards to create your new timeline (noting any updated deadlines from the show or your preferred vendors, along with internal or personal “baby step” deadlines to which you’ll also need to adhere). Anything you’ve already completed will likely need to be reconfirmed, at a minimum. So don’t gloss over any essential steps in your new timeline, but adjust the duration of each one to better suit the effort required.
With extra time to prepare, there’s no excuse for incurring late or rush fees. Instead, plan to be in the “early bird” club to save your company a little extra money – and to save yourself a little extra stress.
2. You can create stronger connections between shows.
Imagine your messaging is a story, and each event is a single chapter in a book about it. Your audience reads a chapter at a time and puts the book down, perhaps gaining additional insights from friends (their peers and your team) or the internet (emails, social media, etc.) in between. In a normal year, your audience has to wait a long time between chapters, but not this year.
When an event is postponed, your schedule becomes more compressed. For example, since many first- and second-quarter trade shows have been postponed, this year’s show is likely going to occur only six months or so before next year’s event, instead of a full year. That means, with careful planning, it should be easier to connect one event to another, and your messaging can be more fluid, with less emphasis on catching up your audience than usual and more time for building to your next big idea.
As you determine the updated theme or focus for your rescheduled event, consider what else will be going on for your company at that time – and into the New Year – as well as what you’d really like to accomplish with your (new, more effective) momentum-building efforts.
3. You can secure more support from your team and return more value to your company.
One of the brightest silver linings of any dark cloud is the way difficulty brings people together. I like to say that trade shows are the ultimate team sport, as they provide the opportunity for everyone to work together and for every department to reap the rewards. So postponement is like an unexpected half-time for your team.
Even if you weren’t getting along (or getting the respect/appreciation you deserve) before, this is your chance to come together and turn things around. Take some time to educate your team on the impact of your trade show program and to establish clear expectations for their participation. If you need or want more support as you start your preparations again, don’t be afraid to ask for it directly. After all, we’re all in this together.
Also, beyond improving your show-related collaborations, this is a great time to explore other types of value that your participation can provide. If you haven’t met with each department to familiarize yourself with its respective goals, now is a perfect time. Perhaps you’ll even learn that there’s something small you can do to help them more, too. Remember: Any extra value your trade show efforts can provide for your company is always a plus, no matter which department benefits the most.
4. You can learn from past mistakes.
Remember those post-show evaluation reports you’ve been preparing for every event since you started exhibiting? This is the time to pull them out and do a deep dive. Many exhibitors compare their current plans to the previous year, but if you go back further, you may learn even more. After all, “the greater the separation, the greater the objectivity.” In other words, as you revisit your past efforts, you won’t feel as attached to the components or results, so you’re more likely to notice important lessons you missed the last time you looked. And, with the experience you’ve gained since then, you’re also better equipped to apply the insights to your current and future efforts. If you haven’t been evaluating your trade shows consistently (oops!), or even properly following up with leads, start now. Decide what information would be most helpful to collect and how you’ll do so (creating checklists, templates, etc.) in advance, so the actual report is easier to pull together after the show. Then, moving forward, you can plan to review your past actions often to avoid plateaus in your future progress.
5. You can try new things.
Even if everything else has been going well and you’ve checked every task off your exhibiting “to do” list, there are likely still some missed opportunities you could choose to capitalize on now. Get inspired to think bigger. What could your “to do” list be missing? What else are other companies, big or small, in your industry or another doing that you aren’t? Could any of those ideas be applied to your program, too? What other classes, training, articles, or advice could you benefit from? The idea isn’t to copy someone else’s playbook (especially as that hardly ever makes good business sense), but rather to make smart decisions to expand your strategic efforts in new and exciting ways – and, ultimately, to improve your subsequent results.
In the end, a postponed event gives you a second chance to reach your true potential through exhibiting. It’s okay to be disappointed, frustrated, or upset. It’s also okay to take a few hours or days to clear your head and regroup. However, it’s not okay to give up.
Your company, your audience, your future job prospects, and our industry are all depending on you to do your best to find the silver lining and make the most of the opportunities available to you. Get excited about your rescheduled trade show. With these tips, it might be even better than if it had happened on time, as expected.