ATLANTA — As COVID-19 lockdowns ease and more and more venues receive permission to hold events again, there are still concerns about what shows look like in a post-pandemic era. In order to provide a glimpse of how to handle events during this complicated time with the utmost safety in mind, the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) and UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, recently released a case study about Super Pet Expo, which was held on August 28-30 at the Dulles Expo Center in Virginia after being rescheduled twice due to restrictions.
“We are very pleased with the level of detail we have been able to share through this in-depth case study,” said SISO Executive Director David Audrain. “We are looking to continue with further case studies on different types of events in different regions in order to provide insights and ideas to our members from around the world as we see exhibitions starting to be held again.”
Super Pet Expo’s Response to Event Organizing in the COVID Climate
Originally planned for March 20-22, Super Pet Expo had first rescheduled to June 12-14. However, since the stay-at-home order in Virginia was not lifted until June 10, the B2C show’s organizer, Eric Udler of All Show Services, decided it was too soon to try to market an event and it was best to reschedule it again.
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In order to figure out how to proceed from there, Udler checked the pulse of the show’s audience through a survey of 11,000 past Super Pet Expo attendees. In the seven-question survey, Udler asked people about their likelihood to attend the show under certain conditions, such as having wider aisles on the floor, a mask mandate and a managed ticket entry. He received a 9% response rate, and 49% of respondents reported that they would be likely to attend, while a little over 20% said they would not.
Armed with information about attendee interest and what they needed to feel safe, Udler decided to move Super Pet Expo forward. To ensure that the show was safe for everyone there based on local venue constraints, the following requirements were put into place:
- In accordance with the Commonwealth of Virginia’s mandate on mask-wearing in indoor public settings, all attendees and exhibitors were required to wear masks in the venue.
- Exhibitors and staff were required to get their temperature checked each day of the event; however, temperature checks were not required for attendees.
- The allowable venue capacity was limited to 50% or 1,000 people.
- Floor aisles had to be a minimum of 14-feet wide.
- There had to be at least five feet of “dead” space between exhibitor booths.
Despite the challenges, the show was a success. In fact, Udler reports in the case study that with 5,000 attendees and 129 exhibitors, Super Pet Expo exceeded his expectations.
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Sharing Knowledge During Recovery
Audrain says that the Super Pet Expo case study is just one example of how SISO will continue keeping exhibitions and events professionals abreast of the latest information throughout the remainder of the pandemic and beyond.
“Our industry is well-known for the level of sharing and collaboration, as we come out of this COVID-19 crisis, our rebuilding will require a high level of assistance for all and support for all involved,” he said. “SISO will continue to provide every assistance to our members and the industry at large, making information and knowledge sharing available to all.”
Reach David Audrain at 404-334-4585 or David@SISO.org.