Dating back to local artisanal trading in medieval Europe and evolving through the Industrial Revolution to the 20th century, trade shows have survived war, disease, economic disaster and travel restrictions. So, why did the COVID-19 pandemic have such a devastating impact on a deep-rooted business practice?
Some may blame political direction or public disenchantment, while others claim the delay in preventative science or sensational media reports. Regardless, the virus has led to an undeniable amount of deaths, ultimately propelling the temporary, but prolonged elimination of face-to-face gatherings. Additionally, the lack of support from state and federal legislature to protect businesses from COVID-19 liabilities has caused additional delays to the industry’s return.
As a professional who is financially supported by the production of trade shows, how do you realistically sustain your business during this unprecedented time?
While the convention industry is known for its fast-paced, energetic and timeline-oriented design, we are now faced with the impact of unknown deadlines of global proportion. Therefore, shifting the focus to internal business will not only alleviate the stress of external elements that can’t be controlled, but also allow the time to fix processes that haven’t been ideal but were considered sufficient due to time limitations. Initiating a comprehensive analysis of your brand and sales strategy, administration, revenue streams, subscription technology, advertising, marketing and membership affiliations will not only streamline efficiencies,but also help you develop a leaner business methodology. The combination of refinement will also initiate a more seamless process when applying for federally funded support.
Continuous learning is the key to keeping the mind active and creativity fresh, whether it’s required CE credits, certifications, business accreditations or indirectly related fields of study. Education is critical for overall career advancement and a necessary part of development. Rather than sit idle and ponder the latest media scandal, dedicate a larger percentage of your time to learning. From complimentary online classes and certifications, to reduced university tuitions and scholarships, there is no better time to take advantage of higher learning. The diversion of studying and new networking groups will temporarily put the mind at ease and help reduce stress.
Just because the ability to meet face-to-face has been put on hold doesn’t mean human connection has to be completely lost. Technology has ironically hindered the personal touch that solidifies most business relationships, so use this time to reach out to new and existing relationships with “traditional” forms of communication like personal notes, phone calls or small gifts from a local business. The hospitality industry prides itself on creating memorable experiences – rebuild that fond impression by initiating a genuine conversation. Don’t get in the mix of trying to schedule a Zoom call that has a greater probability of being canceled—just reach out at a reasonable time and say, “hello.” This time has been a stressful experience for all and having an empathic conversation not necessarily related to immediate sales or COVID-19 measures being taken will go the extra relationship mile. Also, sharing a proven success story, a complimentary service or mini brainstorm can help shift perspectives and open doors of communication. Loyalty and future business is not only based on skill, but also on genuine effort, mutual understanding and selfless acts.
Words and Actions
Social media provides a “free” platform to share immediate thoughts in conjunction with marketing business services. While these online applications are ideal conduits to remind clients of past successes, they can also be detrimental if used to enforce political views or engage in negative chatter. While freedom of speech is a constitutional right, personal or controversial views should not be a part of your overall business strategy, especially ones made in haste. Use the excess time the pandemic has created to build a weekly social content plan; engage, like, hashtag and comment on other pages; and share personalized photos, video tips or trends. This combination of social media interaction will increase audience participation, expand beyond immediate networks, and set the stage for a higher probability of current and future online sales conversions.
The only aspect of life that can never be recovered is time, so use it wisely, learn the lessons, pay it forward and keep forging ahead. COVID-19 is only a chapter—not a novel. Every page in this unprecedented moment will be far from perfect and will continue to have varying degrees of challenges. Acknowledging the pandemic’s advantages, understanding this time period is temporary, and remaining both positive and accountable will help set the stage for an accelerated recovery when business “normalcy” finally returns.