COVID Vaccine Rollout Fuels Optimism for the Trade Show Industry

Andrea Doyle, Executive Editor
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Ken Holsinger, Senior Vice President, Data Solutions, Freeman Event Research
Ken Holsinger, Senior Vice President, Data Solutions, Freeman Event Research

DALLAS – The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination effort brings with it a renewed sense of hope, especially in the trade show industry. “What fuels even more optimism is that trade show attendees, exhibitors, organizers and event planners are willing to immediately receive the vaccine,” said Ken Holsinger, Senior Vice President, Data Solutions, Freeman Event Research.

The statistics are encouraging. Freeman Event Research found that 80% of attendees, 82% of exhibitors, and 93% of organizers and event planners are ready to get the vaccination.

Freeman’s research also reveals that attendees and exhibitors in the U.S. plan to return to face-to-face events by fall 2021. According to the study, 78% of attendees expect to attend in-person events this fall, with that figure increasing to 94% by winter. Exhibitors are slightly more optimistic, with 80% returning this fall, 95% by winter.

Related. Freeman Doubles Down on Data-Driven Event Recovery Research

“It’s a Modern Miracle”

Holsinger’s optimism is especially poignant, as he was a voice of caution early on in the pandemic. “We were the ones pulling the reins back,” he said. “There was talk about having shows after last Easter, but I kept saying, ‘Everything we see from attendees in every wave of data is they will be ready to come back only when we have a vaccine.’ That was a sobering reality when you realized the fastest vaccines to market in the past were four to seven years. Thinking back to last April, to think we would have a vaccine within a year seemed like a pipe dream, at best. It’s a modern miracle that will bring back the industry.”

Related. Freeman Launches SafeConnect

A potential obstacle is lead time. “Most planners take a year or more to plan their shows and events. Does it take a year to plan a program, or do we plan for a year because that’s how much time we have? I would argue the latter,” he explained. “The events industry went off like a light switch and, initially, we thought it would come back on with a dimmer. It’s not. It’s coming back on with a light switch, faster than we thought.”

Challenges Remain

Although an advantageous one, this situation has its own set of challenges. In response, Freeman is resourcing planning opportunities, tools and playbooks. Freeman’s strategy group is spearheading an Agile Planning Framework group as clients will need contingency plans and go/no-go scenarios that take them from nine months, six months, 90 days, 60 days, 30 days, two weeks, right up to the event. “And there’s going to be things thrown at them, positive and negative, all the way through that time cycle,” he said.

For more from Freeman Event Research, be sure to read the April issue of Trade Show Executive for the rest of the story.

Reach Ken Holsinger or Bob Priest-Heck via media@freeman.com