When Will Trade Shows Return? (updated 3/2/21)

Categories: Covid-19 and Trade Shows, Trade Show Industry News

3/2/2021 UPDATE:

It’s hard to believe, I mean like really hard to believe– but it has been a year since Covid swept across the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Was it as bad as I thought it would be? No, much worse. And believe me, I thought it was going to be bad.

But here we are 1 year later and my heart goes out to everyone in our beloved trade show and exhibit industry and our cousins over in live events and concert industry.

We made it this far, we can get through the rest.

Texas made an announcement today that they are lifting all restrictions. Let’s hope this momentum continues. It’s a tough decision to make for sure.

As for the rest of the states, time will tell.

I probably won’t post on this blog for a while, but rest-assured we are continually updating our Status of Upcoming Trade Shows (link) spreadsheet for those that want to follow along and view the status.

11/27/2020 UPDATE:

It’s still early in the throws of a large uptick in cases nationally, but it does feel like we have hit an inflection point mainly due to the anticipated release of the first doses of vaccine in the next couple weeks.

I am pretty active on LinkedIn and read or participate in the networking events online. I have noticed a nice increase in optimism even as things look bleak with the spread. I think this is in-part due to the widespread deployment of effective vaccines combined with Zoom fatigue.

While I don’t think anyone expects to automatically return to normal, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The 2nd quarter of 2021 is starting to look promising for the following reasons:

One major trend that we tracked was the larger shows have rescheduled to the 2nd half of 2021. I think this is a positive development and bodes well for the in-person event industry. Some of these shows could have easily switched the format entirely to virtual, but they chose not to in part because they recognize the value that in-person brings to their industry.

Here is a freshly updated list of where shows stand going into December 2020:

Status of Upcoming Trade Shows (newly updated)

Note: Also make sure to click the tabs on the Google Sheet at the bottom to see the statistics and trends over time.

10/11/2020 UPDATE: :

For this update, I wanted to provide something meaningful. We’ve all been waiting and wondering when shows will return and it can be hard to get a real grasp on when that will be.

We hear news from all over with some states lifting restrictions and others modifying restrictions, but I wanted to put together something tangible that we can reference to actually see what the status is for the hundreds of shows for not just in 2020 but also 2021 which we anticipate the ‘comeback’ year.

So, below is a link to the status of upcoming shows (small and large):

Status of Upcoming Trade Shows

This is a pretty exhaustive list and I will make updates as often as possible.

Keep in mind as you view this list that this is most likely ‘best case scenerio’ because I do anticipate many of the ‘Scheduled As Planned’ to be moved or cancelled as the date approaches.

It is also worth noting that the larger shows (like CES and NAB) have either made their show virtual (like CES) or postponed to the 2nd half of 2021 (like NAB). The shear size of the shows combined with the large international presence makes putting these shows together in the next few months almost impossible. We look forward to their return.

We’re also keeping track of state ‘guidelines’ as things change to get an idea for where shows can actually take place and states that are currently restricting them.

Status of State Guidelines for Exhibitions and Mass Gatherings

Lastly, we are keeping track of the latest news as it comes out as it relates to trade shows here in the U.S. and also around the world.

Latest Exhibition News

I hope you find these updates helpful. We’re just as anxious to get back to business as you are and let’s hope the great turnaround starts early in 2021.

8/28/2020 UPDATE: :

I just want to present the facts here, so while yes I want to see shows return as soon as safely possible, I also want a realistic look at things.

That being said, we have some small signs of hope.

Today (8/28/2020) saw the first day of the Super Pet Expo live in-person event in Chantilly, VA. Follow them on Instagram here to see photos coming out and show them your support.

This is an extraordinarily positive sign and with the passing of each small show like this one, gives us an opportunity as an industry to prove that safe shows can take place. The more that safe shows can be demonstrated, the more attendees they will attract.

Another positive update is that Abbott Labs received FDA approval for the rapid test that only costs $5 per test with results in 15 minutes and 97% accuracy. This is definitely something that will be huge for businesses, schools, and yes trade shows… Let’s hope it’s a game changer.

Lastly, I just updated the table below for shows remaining for 2020 with the current status of each as of 8/28/2020.

Here are our candidates who are left for 2020:

ShowDateCity, StateStatus:
HPMKTOct 13thHigh Point, NCScheduled As Planned In-Person
IAEEDec 3rdLas Vegas, NVScheduled As Planned In-Person
ISSA ShowNov 16thLas Vegas, NVVirtual
Connect MeetingsOct 19thLas Vegas, NV Scheduled As Planned In-Person
US Sports CongressDec 7thLas Vegas, NV Scheduled As Planned In-Person
ED SpacesNov 11thCharlotte, NC Virtual
BreakBulk AmericasNov 3rdHouston, TXScheduled As Planned In-Person
ILTANov 16thHouston, TX Virtual
Craft Beverage ExpoNov 30thLouisville, KYScheduled As Planned In-Person
Interschutz USAOct 14thPhiladelphia, PAScheduled As Planned In-Person
IAAPANov 17thOrlando, FL Virtual
LDI InternationalOct 19thI dunnoScheduled As Planned In-Person
MD Expo Nov 8thTampa, FLScheduled As Planned In-Person
World WorkplaceDec 9thGrapevine, TX Virtual
SEMA ShowNov 3rdLas Vegas, NV Virtual
Minneapolis Gift & Art ExpoNov 6thMinneapolis, MNScheduled As Planned In-Person
NoteExpoNov 6thGrapevine, TX Virtual
ArchitectureBoston ExpoNov 4thBoston, MA Virtual

8/4/2020 UPDATE:

Well, I gotta say it’s pretty slim pickins for the remainder of 2020. There are a few shows left that have good intentions of still holding in-person events but the majority of them have fallen like dominos. Even the mega CES Show in January 2021 has switched to a virtual event. It appears they know there is not enough runway between now and then to really pull off a huge show like that which has a large international presence.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is there are still a number of shows that are left standing (at least for now). Given the trend of most other shows, I’m not holding my breath, however I hope there comes a time when one large brave show decides to buck the trend and move forward.

I think my big hope now is that SEMA Show will be the trailblazer and actually pull off a large in-person event this year. They have put extensive measures in place to hold a safe event for everyone and have publicly stated that the only way they won’t hold the show is if the state of Nevada does not allow it to move forward.

7/11/2020 UPDATE:

With cases on the rise in many U.S. states, most of the large trade shows scheduled for the fall have been cancelled or converted into virtual events. Virtual events are catching on and are at least putting a bandaid for now on the inability for in-person shows to take place.

Most states have some sort of restriction being placed on the number of people at any particular gathering.

Both shows (Superzoo and MAGIC Apparel Show) from my May update have been cancelled. Superzoo rescheduled for next year and MAGIC has turned into a virtual event.

Right now, the next time-frame to keep tabs on is November and December. Some shows like SEMA Show is still scheduled, but as we’ve seen with other shows, they are subject to change.

It appears at this point that 2 things need to happen since the virus didn’t just ‘fizzle out’ as many (including myself) had hoped:

#1- We need vaccines to start rolling out on a large scale that are effective

#2- Liability Protection for companies. Many companies have travel restrictions in place on employees and will not let them travel for business for liability reasons.

5/29/2020 UPDATES

Right now it looks promising for some shows to resume in September and maybe sooner depending on show and location.

Good sign that Germany gets the ‘Green Light’ to resume trade shows in June. Germany is ahead of us as far as their ‘curve’ goes so this may be a good sign for U.S. Trade Shows.

SuperZoo is planning on holding their in-person trade show starting Sept 1st.

The massive MAGIC Apparel Trade Show is planning on taking place Sept 29th in Las Vegas.

Fingers crossed and stay positive!

Here is the original article from March 20th:

2020 is proving to be the most difficult year for Trade Shows probably since WWII or possibly even the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918/ 1919. The impact is wide spread from a health standpoint and economically. Our heart reels for everyone involved. This is most certainly the biggest challenge facing the industry in modern times.

The United States is just now entering into the ever-increasing numbers and endless news cycles. The rate of growth has been dramatically increasing due to spread, but also due to more available testing. Our hope is that testing catches up with infections and we can start to get everything under control like China and now South Korea has been able to do.

When Will Trade Shows Return?

So all of this begs the question: When will the shows return? When can we resume as ‘normal’ and plan for industry shows even if the number of exhibitors and participants is a fraction of the pre-pandemic months?

For now this is the trillion dollar question (literally). I think there are 3 scenerios that would have to occur in order for trade shows to resume. Hopefully things come into focus more soon, but here are the 3 events needed to rein in this unmitigated disaster:

#1- The Virus’s Fatality Rate is Close to Influenza

According to the CDC’s website, there are approximately 291,000 to 646,000 deaths each year globally depending on how bad the flu season is.

As of this writing (which changes minute-to-minute) there are approximately 11,286 deaths reported so far according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Tracker.

But of course the big concern is that they think the mortality rate will be much higher than even a really bad flu year and that is the problem.

Data is still coming in, but if we discover that the mortality and spread rates are closer to influenza, it may be something that society has to adjust to.

This seems unlikely at the moment with new information coming in each day and that coronaviruses can be especially dangerous to at-risk populations. So for now unless something changes, we can be overly optimistic about the return of Trade Shows while this virus rages on.

#2- Herd Immunity

The next one is ‘Herd Immunity’. This is essentially when enough people in a given population have been infected and recovered so that enough people are walking around with antibodies to limit or prevent the spread of the disease.

Given the above information of estimated mortality figures, this is a freightening scenerio. One that would be lengthy and have a very serious impact on our community and world with untold casualties.

#3- Vaccine Deployment

The best bet is getting a vaccine….. fast! Current estimates however put this at between 12 months and 18 months from now for discover, trial, testing, manufacture and deployment.

Obviously, the Trade Show Industry is already struggling with months worth of shows being cancelled so let’s hope the sooner-the-better.

#4- Antibody Treatment

The last option we have may be some antibody therapeutics that are currently under development. The Covid-19 coronavirus is an antigen and our immune system created antibodies to combat it. Some companies are working to by-pass the vaccines and take a shortcut by developing the antibody therapeutics to treat infected patients and nip it in the bud which would greatly help the process for all of us to return to a more normal life.

The Shows Must Go On!

As they say, the show must go on, but it will most certainly be delayed for quite a while as we all figure out the best options going forward. Just like how we say large gathering close first like Cruise Ships and Trade Shows and then trickle down through smaller gatherings like restaurants and bars, the reverse will most likely be true as things resume again.

We are truly thankful to the healthcare providers and everyone working to put an end to this global tragedy.

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