Live trade shows felt like a distant memory for much of 2020, but as they make a comeback, you may be wondering how illness could impact your design(s). Most shows have new protocols for encouraging social distancing and improving sanitization. That means exhibitors must learn how to tweak their booth layouts to accommodate new regulations. Here, we offer some tips on how to encourage social distancing in your trade show exhibit.
The Challenge of Social Distancing in a Small Space
According to current CDC guidelines, social distancing means people should maintain a six-foot distance between themselves and others. In practice, it also means avoiding contact with both people and things whenever possible, like using contactless payment systems and avoiding handshakes.
This could pose a challenge for trade show exhibitors. In a trade show booth that may measure just 20×20 or 20×30 feet, that doesn’t leave a lot of room for distancing, especially when you factor in displays and furnishings. To make the most of your exhibit, you’ll need to streamline your booth design, reorganize the space, and perhaps consider some extra staff training.
Social Distancing Solutions for Trade Show Exhibits
Reorganize Your Booth for Better Flow
With the exception of in-line booths, most exhibit designs have multiple entry and exit points and don’t necessarily have an organized flow from one area to another. Implementing entry and exit options and managing flow can facilitate social distancing by strategically organizing your space.
Some options for reorganizing your booth flow include:
- Creating designated (and obvious) entry and exit points, rather than bidirectional entry/exit locations
- Monitoring entry and exit points so you can limit the number of visitors inside your exhibit at any one time
- Using display elements or seating to create “rooms”
- Considering where people will spend the bulk of their time when they visit your booth and making those spaces larger to help prevent bottlenecks
Create Space with Your Booth Design
Good exhibit design is an important part of creating an environment where staff and visitors feel comfortable. When they enter your booth, guests will want to know that they’ll be able to interact while staying safe. One way to signal this is with your layout: A booth that looks clean, orderly, and spacious is one people will feel confident about visiting.
Some ways to create space and boundaries include:
- Allowing a minimum of six feet between booth elements, including counters, demo tables, and displays – This might mean planning for a larger exhibit. See our ideas for maximizing 20×30 or 30×30 exhibits.
- Using clear partitions for face-to-face meetings and to separate spaces in spots where distancing is difficult
- Removing extra demo stations if you have multiple – If you’re limiting booth visitors anyway, you won’t need as many stations as you would ordinarily.
- Removing interactive exhibit elements, such as touchscreens – This will both free up space and reduce the number of high-contact surfaces in your booth.
- Trading floor displays for wall-mounted ones to free up floor space
Removing exhibit elements may not be the most desirable option, but for a small booth, the most effective way to facilitate social distancing could be to temporarily do just that, knowing you can use them again in the future.
Make Your Booth a Double Decker
The simplest way to make it easier for people to social distance in your trade show exhibit is to give them more space. If your budget allows, then adding more booth space is the obvious option, especially if you’ve been thinking about an expansion anyway.
Adding a second floor is a great idea because it lets you add more space without increasing your exhibit’s footprint. This means you get the advantages of more space without having to pay for more space. With a second floor, you can create a dedicated area for product demos or meetings and provide extra room for people to check out what you have to offer without crowding one another. When it’s not in use, the second floor can also double as a break room for booth staff.
Use PPE and Sanitization to Protect Booth Staff and Visitors
Many show organizers say they plan to set up sanitization stations, offer free masks, and make other changes to improve safety at events. But there’s no guarantee that these items will be provided at all trade shows, so it pays to be prepared at every event you attend. Stocking up on PPE supplies is the best way to ensure everyone who works at or visits your booth can access these items. Having masks and sanitizer freely available and visible is the best way to encourage people to use them.
An easy way to do this is to set up a small table at your booth’s designated entry point with a box of masks and some sanitizer. Add a sign that reminds people to use sanitizer as they enter the booth and that offers a free mask to anyone who wants one.
Some other options include:
- Setting out hand sanitizer and boxes of disposable gloves for staff and visitors to use when handling or demonstrating products
- Designating a member of staff to regularly sanitize high-contact surfaces, tester products, and any other items that are touched often
Make Use of Digital Technology
You may decide it’s better to skip face-to-face networking and sales sessions, but you don’t have to get rid of these aspects altogether. Virtual tools are sophisticated enough—and accessible enough—that you can replace those meetings with video calls instead. This is a viable solution for hybrid events too, as video calls can be used for both your live and your virtual visitors.
Train Your Booth Staff
Before you start to attend trade shows again, your booth staff will benefit from a brief training session. This will help set the expectations for how you want them to handle hygiene and safety.
Points to cover might include:
- Protocols for wearing masks and/or gloves, including when they’re expected and how often they should be changed
- Protocols for cleaning and sanitization, including what items need regular cleaning, and how often
- How to greet booth visitors – For instance, what to do instead of shaking hands and how to handle visitors who seem to expect a handshake
- How to direct visitors around the booth to ensure an even flow of traffic and prevent overcrowding
Make Your Comeback
As live trade shows return to the calendar, many people are likely to feel a little nervous about navigating events after the pandemic. If you’re in this boat, remember that many people around you are too. Helping booth visitors and your staff maintain social distancing in your trade show exhibit will help everyone feel more comfortable and confident, and a little bit more normal.