LAS VEGAS – On April 13, Nevada Governor Sisolak announced an ambitious state-wide goal: For every county to fully reopen at 100% capacity by June 1. However, for shows meeting before then — such as TPE2021 (Tobacco Plus Expo) — Trade Show Director Ellie Hansen’s work was just getting started.
TPE has been named as one of “The Top 50 Fastest Growing” trade shows in the United States for two consecutive years, and Hansen admits this year’s show expects to utilize 92,450 square feet of LVCC’s meeting space for 346 exhibiting companies, numbers in line with 2019 and 2020. “Attendance is tracking as well as previous years, but we won’t know till we get there,” she said.
“We’re delighted to once again welcome shows to the Las Vegas Convention Center, and we’re confident Tobacco Plus Expo 2021 will be a huge success and an exciting step forward for the meetings industry,” said John Schreiber, CEM, Vice President of Business Sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “Over the past year, Las Vegas has not slowed down at all, adding more than 2 million square feet of meeting space, bringing our total to 14 million square feet. We’re ready to fast forward to business and can’t wait to welcome TPE as one of the first shows back at the Convention Center.”
In accordance with state guidelines, and because TPE expects more than 250 attendees for an event before June 30, they had to submit a Large Gathering COVID-19 Preparedness & Safety Plan Certification Form (“Large Gathering Certification”) to get certified through the state’s Department of Business and Industry. This requires TPE organizers to follow the state’s health and safety requirements and protocols, and adhere to the prevention principles that have remained consistent throughout the COVID pandemic: maintain safe social distancing, wear face coverings, and practice good hygiene and cleaning measures.
TPE’s approved safety plan and other measures include 7 Points of Safety: “What We are Doing” (daily temperature checks, enforcing masking and 24/7 sanitation); “What You Can Do” (practice social distancing, wear a mask, practice fun and safe greetings, and monitor your own health); pre-show safety tips; and on the show floor protocols upon entry and registration. Further information is at TPESafe.com.
For her fellow show managers just embarking on resurrecting their own shows, Hansen, who is Trade Show Director for the Tobacco Media Group (TMG), urges them to determine their needs to meet the current regulations as soon as possible. With TPE 2021 scheduled for May 12-14 at LVCC’s North Mall, Hansen had less than 60 days to increase the show’s aisle widths to 12 feet, which she admits destroyed her floor plan and left her with a cluster of hall columns in booths. “I didn’t think we were going to be able to proceed with the show, but we ended up moving halls and we had to lay out a new show floor,” she said.
“From start to finish, it took us four weeks to get approval.”
Despite being told they didn’t need to submit a safety plan, about an hour after leaving the convention center following a site visit, she received a call informing her she did, indeed, need to submit a safety plan and that she needed to do it asap. “I completed the forms as requested, and then the process for approval changed and I had to complete new forms and resubmit, ultimately resulting in the written final approval from the state of Nevada,” Hansen said, admitting that this last year has provided the biggest learning experience of her career. “However, the LVCC were amazing to deal with during all of this and I couldn’t have done without them.”
Hansen also reminds us of advice familiar to all show managers, and which is as critical today as it was before the pandemic: Expect to spend twice as much time and money. “Allow more time for everything and prepare for unexpected expenses,” she said. “We found out a little over 60 days out from the show that the monorail wasn’t going to be up and running for our show, so we had to invest in shuttle transportation. The added expenses for the temperature checks, additional labor etc. all adds up fast.”
The Power of Patience
“The biggest piece of advice I would give to someone who is planning a trade show in a venue that has been closed over this last year is to have patience,” Hansen advised, adding that as the first trade show back to the LVCC, there isn’t a playbook. “We all are trying to figure out how all of this works with the new regulations.”
This is everybody’s first pandemic, she reminds us, so figuring out how to get back to business takes finesse. “Everything takes longer because the venues, and even our general contractor, have had skeleton crews, so getting responses is taking longer; everything is taking longer,” she added.
Hansen thinks it’s important for trade shows to get back to business for the jobs that come with them for the different cities, such as Las Vegas, that have been severely affected. “I feel a real sense of pride when I think about what all of our hard work will mean to Las Vegas, and am hearing so much positive feedback from our vendors about how excited they are that we are helping to bring trade shows back to Las Vegas,” she said.
“Come to Vegas. Have a great time. Have a great show. Sell a ton of products. … Let’s go do this,” Ben Simpson, Managing Director of the Tobacco Media Group, organizers of TPE, said in a video on the TPE2021 website.