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March in Miami Begins Post-COVID-19 Renaissance

Judy Williamsms - News Editor
Nick Neonakis shares his experiences about a trade show held in Miami

MIAMI— Franchise Expo, held March 13-14 at the Miami Airport Convention Center, attracted more than 550 attendees and 72 national brands. Nick Neonakis, CEO, Great American Franchise Expo, Coral Gables, Fla., admits he’s seeing a real renaissance since the pandemic began. “This was a business trade show and the caliber of attendees was really high,” he said, adding that people were really looking to accomplish something, not just show up.

Working with, Neonakis ordered some very forward-looking scanning devices to ensure the show met COVID-19 safety and health protocols. “This device, the Body Temp Kiosk, looks like an iPad. It checks your temperature, and if you’re not wearing a mask, it beeps red and won’t let you in.” Neonakis said they had five or six of these screens set up so attendees couldn’t bypass them and admits that people seemed happy to comply with social distancing, sanitizer use and other safety measures. “People just followed our instructions and we utilized a lot of signage. No one pushed back, we didn’t have to tell anyone what to do; people just did the right thing.”


Related. Notes From the Pandemic Front Lines

Is this the beginning of a Miami post-COVID comeback? With Governor Ron DeSantis having lifted most COVID restrictions, the city’s roster anticipates and awaits many more live events.

On March 22–24, The Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) will be hosting its first visiting convention business with the spring JIS Jewelers International Show. With 194 exhibitors registered as of March 18, the JIS March show is the first JIS event of the year and the organization is rolling out a long list of safety precautions to keep the event safe.

Jewelers International Showcase, JIS Exchange and JIS Miami have ranked in TSE’s Fastest 50 multiple times. The 2018 edition of JIS Exchange garnered a Fastest 50 “Rock Star Award” and was named a “Fastest-Growing Annual Show by Percentage of Growth in Attendance.”

The Aesthetic Society expects 600 attendees to meet April 29-May 3 at the MBCC with a host of COVID safety protocols including maxing out attendance at 600 to maintain a safe, socially distant environment. The MBCC already provides an on-site testing facility should delegates need a negative test for return to their home state or country. No appointment is needed for rapid antigen tests and results are texted within 15 minutes. PCR tests are also available with an appointment and take 24 hours for results.

And Liberty Fairs and Cabana has just announced a new partnership to launch an event at the MBCC July 10–12, the first U.S.–based group to schedule a live event.

Liberty Fairs typically stages physical events in New York and Los Angeles. This trade show caters to contemporary and mid-priced fashion labels and for its Miami debut, the company is teaming-up with resort and swimwear-focused Cabana. Liberty hopes to host about 150 brands, while Cabana expects about 250-300. Both Liberty Fairs and Cabana will include a digital show to correspond with their live event, but are optimistic that the ever-increasing number of vaccinated adults in the country will encourage people to attend in person.

Having bravely gone where few trade show organizers have gone before, Neonakis advises his trade show colleagues to find the courage to try. However, he warned, “Don’t expect huge attendance numbers.” He added that lots of people will try to pull you down and discourage you, but you have to take a stand. “It’s time to get the world back on track again. If everyone is scared, no one will do it. There are enough people being smart about it — like all my colleagues in the trade show — so be smart about it. It won’t be as big as you start climbing back, but you need to start somewhere.”

Reach Nick Neonakis at or (216) 848-1505.


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