I realise that some of what I've put up here in recent weeks/months has been slightly (and understandably) negative. Most of this has been wrapped around the collapsing exhibition circuit and I've written on several different platforms about what might happen. There's been a small amount of reaction to this. An old friend dropped me a line yesterday which included a synopsis of the problem:
'We obtained a copy of the Government's guidelines for events and to put it bluntly, a small club hasn't a hope in hell of putting on a show. For instance just to get people through the door we would have to have a machine for contactless payments, there would be no catering unless we obtained the Covid19 certificates (and small shows rely on the profits from catering), no toilet facilities unless they were constantly cleaned and many more conditions.
Also it is unlikely that we could hire a hall from a local authority or get exhibition insurance unless we could guarantee compliance with all of the guidelines. All of that and much more before we could even consider exhibitors, traders and the number of admitted public (based on the square footage of the hall). Even if Perspex screens were placed around layouts and trade stands, they would need to be disinfected at frequent intervals.'
We're now essentially at ground zero, so what do exhibitions do?
1. Wait. There's not really a lot of point running around and planning shows in the fullest sense for probably six months at least. I don't think things will get going until this time next year, but we can take on board the (shifting) guidelines and gradually build contingencies around this.
2. Re-book this year's layouts. Most seem to be doing this. It would be daft not to utilise the planning work already done.
3. Downsize slightly. The footfall maybe smaller, so booking a large venue maybe a costly error. That said the traditional spacings of items in the hall may need to be rethought, with more room around each. Barriers may well be mandatory to obtain distance from exhibitors and rear op's would be preferable in most cases as you already have the depth of the layout to include. Getting the balance right here will be fun. Fewer layouts, less trade and more or the same expense for the venue.
Exhibitors: 1. Slow down a little; it's not going out for a while.
2. Any 'new' exhibition layout should factor in the above points. Front op's are out, screens maybe worth considering (masks definitely) and a lower personal engagement is suddenly paramount. This will preclude some exhibitors completely - those who have made the front op'/chat to the public the root of the design.
3. A dramatic shift in thinking will be apparent for some, including a move to online only especially those with health issues. This isn't as radical as you may think and the lock down has thrown up some gems of home-based layouts.
Trade: A more 'sealed' jewellery shop approach with a no-touch display. Till screens and contactless payments.
The circuit will return, but it's going to look quite different. I'm old enough to remember when most shows were in church halls and quite low-key - we may well have to return to a similar standpoint and build up from there. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. A vaguely competitive element has developed in the last decade with bigger shows and more widely travelled layouts. Returning to, and restoring touch with a more local visitor (and potential club member) baseline will I believe be the way to move forward and build from this point.
It's going to be OK.