the revival of events and exhibitions
The last (nearly) two years have hit us all hard, but arguably none much harder than the events and exhibitions industries - brought to a complete standstill overnight. We catch up with AFI’s events and exhibition team to discuss the impact on the industry, the green shoots coming through and what to expect in 2022.
When a global pandemic was declared in March 2020, it didn’t take long for the phone calls, emails and endless cancellations to start coming through to the events team at AFI. “It was a really tough time” says Gavin Sambell, AFI Account Director who has worked in the industry for more than 22 years. “We must have spent three solid weeks just cancelling jobs. It was soul destroying for our clients who have built their livelihoods in this industry.” What happened next reflected the battler spirit that Australians are renowned for. “Initially, it was believed we’d be back to normal within 3 – 6 months so shows were rescheduled, then rescheduled and rescheduled again, we were ever hopeful. Then we went through a period of acceptance, like the industry entered hibernation. Although Queensland gave us all a boost when they were able to proceed with some shows earlier this year. It lifted the spirits of us all to see some normality again, even if it was from afar!”
As vaccination rates climb and restrictions lift, the team at AFI are starting to see the green shoots of the industry finally re-emerging after a long time between drinks. “There’s a real momentum again – a buzz in the air” says Gavin. “There are a great deal of quote requests coming through for 2022, it’s great to feel the energy in the industry again.” So with events and exhibitions well and truly back in the calendar next year, what should we expect?
1. Back with a bang
“There will be no dipping the toe in the water” says Andrew Broekhuysen, OCTANORM Account Manager for 13 years. “From what we’re seeing events and exhibitions will be well and truly back from early 2022. It’s started as a dripping tap but the dam walls will soon explode! It’s going to be a busy run but it’s exactly what the industry needs.”
2. Same event, different experience
Some familiar events may pop up in new venues or in existing venues with a very different layout to accommodate for COVID safe operating plans. Gavin says, “There’s been some talk of changing floor plans to provide more space for attendees. This will mean events might not feel as busy but it will be just a more considered use of the space to allow for social distancing.”
3. Possible forced flow
It’s possible that roaming back and forth through exhibition spaces might be on the back burner for a while with some shows likely to opt for a forced flow of attendees through the venue to prevent bottlenecks and meet capacity guidelines. “Attendee safety has never been more at the forefront, and this will be prioritised by event organisers and enforced by venues” says Andrew.
4. Allow plenty of time
“The happiest exhibitors will be those planning ahead now” says Andrew. “With supply chains the way they are, we need to be allowing plenty of time to design, manufacture and build stands, displays and event spaces. We’re also having to get creative to source substitute products where some lead times, particularly international, just aren’t viable for upcoming shows.”
5. Staff up
Many workers have left the events and exhibition industries to work in other, more stable industries like construction and kitchen and movie sets. Gavin explains, “There’s a huge shortage of people in the industry. Often stand builders are recruited from the backpacking community which is obviously non-existent at the moment. It’s going to take time for the workforce to build up its numbers again so there’s going to be strain and pressure on the skeletal staff left. I guess the message is to be prepared and to be patient!”
6. High attendee rates
“We’re expecting high attendee rates (to capacity) across all events and exhibitions.” says Andrew. People are ‘zoomed out’ and craving that personal connection again. Virtual events and exhibitions provided some connection during lockdowns but the demand for face-to-face interaction is higher than ever. I have no doubt, we’ll see that come through in the numbers that register and attend these events.”
7. Less trends focused…initially
“With the industries in hibernation for nearly two years, it’s pretty much been frozen in time” says Gavin. “We’ve got many clients simply resurrecting unused projects from March 2020 and that is perfect. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel - I’d advise not trying to be too trend focused initially and just creating first-class stands and displays that engage. The trends will start emerging again once there some events and shows take place and those in the industry are able to start growing and evolving again. For now, it’s simply about getting businesses back out there again.”
If you’d like to discuss your next event or exhibition, we’d be very excited to chat through the possibilities – the sooner the better ;) Get in touch today.