How the First Major B2B Trade Show So Far in 2021 Pulled It Off

Source: PCMA

Author: Michelle Russell

When Surf Expo — the first major B2B trade show in the U.S. in 2021 — opened at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in early January, it was more of a deep dive than a dip into in-person events during the pandemic. The show floor was 100,000 net square feet.

While that scale represented less than half of pre-COVID levels, Surf Expo’s show producer, Emerald, said it clearly demonstrated a market need in this sector. A recent case study produced by SISO (Society of Independent Show Organizers) and UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, “Riding the Wave: Surf Expo Shifts to Serve Market Needs,” outlined the challenges faced by Emerald in producing the event as well as how the event was received by attendees and exhibitors. Here are highlights of the SISO-UFI case study.

Hosting the event at the GBAC STAR-accredited OCCC ensured a clean, safe, and healthy environment, and Visit Orlando and OCCC worked with Surf Expo to produce a video (see below) so that participants would know what to expect at Surf Expo.

But there were still health and safety costs absorbed by the show producer, including hand sanitizer, masks, temperature checks, security, monitors, signage, extra cleaning, and staffing. Using IGES, a gift show Emerald produced in November in Tennessee, as an example, Emerald CFO David Doft said that the company spent about $20 per attendee on those health and safety initiatives.

Surf Expo producers absorbed some health and safety costs, including temperature checks at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

« As we’ve been budgeting larger events, there are definitely scale efficiencies,” Doft said. “The larger the show, the lower the per-person cost. But if you multiply that out across all our events, you’re talking millions.”

Emerald chose to absorb those additional costs and not pass them on to exhibitors, chalking them up to what it takes to do business in the new normal.

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