Attending a trade show can be a great way to network with peers, meet customers and prospects,  and connect with industry leaders. It provides opportunities to gain exposure and connect with other business owners and like-minded people. Trade shows also provide a place to hear from keynote speakers, get feedback, and participate in educational workshop sessions.

But, with the global pandemic of COVID-19, there has also been a rise in the use of video technology and virtual conferencing – which has led to a decrease in attendance of in-person events. The most common concern, of course,  about attending a live trade show,  is whether the organizers can offer its attendees a place to safely gather.  But there is also the question of whether the current social distancing standards have changed the networking dynamic.

Although the trade show industry has definitely been impacted over the last few months, we are starting to see some semblance of normalcy with the return of in-person events. To get an inside perspective, we caught up with a few of our team members who recently attended an auto repair industry trade show.


A New Social Landscape for Trade Shows

The social landscape has definitely changed, but despite this, the attendance at the event in Tennessee was higher than expected. UpSwell marketing consultant John Johnson mentioned that “the trade show was very well attended. More people showed up than could realistically be expected during these times.” Even though we are in the midst of a pandemic, your business can still get positive engagement at one of these in-person events. “It’s important to [still] get out there face-to-face with the clients we work with every day.”

Cydne Wright, Marketing Manager at UpSwell, had a particularly illuminating experience as this was her first event attended as a vendor. Her thoughts were that “trade shows [post-COVID] will forever be changed, and honestly, maybe it’s for the best!” Our team quickly discovered that it was a little difficult speaking to other vendors and participants with a mask on – as we are all now familiar with – so it was clear that “everyone who came up to the booth to ask about our services really wanted to know about who we were. Also, because of the positive response we got from being there, we saw how important human interaction is for the success of our company.”

Safety in the Spotlight

Despite the benefits your business may receive from attending one of these events and the importance of real, human connection, is it really safe to attend right now?

According to Tyler Maner, another UpSwell marketing consultant, asking “is it safe?” may not be the right way to look at these events. “There were so many precautions and planning that took place that safety didn’t even come to mind. We all knew the rules and regulations, and we knew that not following them meant that events like this might not be able to occur again.”

There is a lot of trust and confidence given to trade show sponsors and organizers to make it a successful, recurring event. In Tyler’s experience, “There is no obstacle that we can’t overcome safely and intelligently when we get a group of people together with a high level of determination to be successful.”

John had a similar thought, stating that “This group of shop owners is fearless.” Based on this, he believes the organization of this event was going to happen one way or another, and “there was nothing that was going to get in their way of meeting up and being part of the best shop owner conference in the nation. These guys and gals really showed up and showed in, in great proportions. That’s what made the event truly remarkable!”

Attending a trade show is a one-of-a-kind, coaching experience that may help you learn new strategies, pitch ideas, and even give you the opportunity to share your own business successes. Additionally, visiting the trade show and being able to gather in a safe environment that promotes a casual atmosphere of teaching and learning, gave back a bit of normalcy for our team members. It’s a strange time not being able to gather with other colleagues as you may normally do or opting for virtual events instead of going in-person – but from these testimonies, we can definitely see the positivity and collaboration it brought to our team members at UpSwell.

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