“This convention reinvigorates our commitment to be bold in how we envision the future of infrastructure and recovery of our state, and this is only the beginning.” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak at the opening ceremony for World of Concrete.
Few of us have experienced a pandemic before, or its effect on our lives and our world. But now that we all have, we are chomping at the bit to get back to business. As the United States is gradually opening back up, trade shows are reemerging too! Perhaps not in the same way as pre-COVID, but back none-the-less. Last week, all eyes were on World Of Concrete 2021 because it was the largest industry show of its kind to return – complete with outdoor exhibits, the opening of the much-anticipated West Hall, the new Tesla underground tunnel (which shuttled people around the campus), and the return of the popular Spec Mix Bricklayer 500. Our executives traveled to World of Concrete and our team of trade show professionals were on hand representing two of our clients. We noticed a thing or two:
1. The excitement to meet face-to-face again was palpable.
There’s no other way to say it: we were energized to be back together! Meeting in person again was a hot topic of conversation. The networking opportunities felt familiar, warm, and wonderful like an old, cozy sweatshirt. Not to mention all the brand presence and array of products to touch and feel and talk about. Attendees at construction-related trade shows are a tactile bunch. People love to experience products up close and personal.
TPG CEO, Christina Piedlow, was on-hand to experience all the excitement. Let’s get her take.
“In a world inundated with Zoom meetings, the World of Concrete was a welcome change and a joy to attend. Aristotle couldn’t have been more right when he said, “We learn by doing.” Especially in a hands-on industry like concrete construction, there is no substitution for being able to experience a demo with the product at an attendee’s fingertips. Attendees were able to see new innovations and exhibitors were giddy with excitement to be able to talk to customers face-to-face for the first time in over a year. As a trade show professional, you could feel the hope and excitement emanating from the trade show floor for the future of the industry.
2. WOC was mostly a maskless show but safety precautions were in place.
After a year and a half of developing and putting into place new safety protocols and with the success of the vaccines, people are more confident and comfortable returning to large business gatherings. Informa Markets, the show organizer, changed the mask requirement to a recommendation. It looked as though about 95% of attendees and exhibitors decided to keep their masks tucked in their pockets. Even though restrictions were lifted entirely in Las Vegas on June 1, the show was committed to providing a safe environment. Going touchless, the standard badge was replaced by a digital QR code that attendees could download and save on their phones, and temperature checks were in place at all entrances.
The digital badge was not appreciated by all exhibitors. Even though everyone understood the reasoning behind the digital badge, not having an easily seen name and business identifier was a disadvantage to many. Reasons given were not being able to greet the visitor by name, not knowing if you were talking to a competitor, and it was harder to take a lead as people struggled to get out their phones and find the QR code.
3. The new West Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center is contemporary and beautiful but was less attended.
The new West Hall features 600,000 square feet of exhibition space, including 328,000 square feet of column-free space. It’s no wonder that exhibitors wanted to have their booths located there. From our perspective and noticed by most of the people we spoke with, the more familiar North Hall was much busier. Additional signage and push notifications reminding attendees of the exhibitions located in the West Hall will improve the experience for future events.
4. Despite the heat, the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 was a hit!
World of Concrete usually takes place in January or February. It was moved to June because of COVID and temps were in the upper 90s! That didn’t seem to bother the masons vying for the title of World’s Best Bricklayer. The event was teeming with participants and spectators. And why not, with a new Ford F-250 4×4 Super Duty as the grand prize?! A good time was had by all – well-produced, exciting and a wonderful sight to see.
5. Exhibitors should create fun, interactive and engaging booth activities post-COVID.
Exhibitors are justifiably hesitant to attract the typical audiences to their booths with presentations, stage shows, or other activities that tend to draw huge crowds. We didn’t see many in-booth activities for attendees to participate in. Starting with baby steps, now is the time to get creative with fun and interactive ways to still attract people into your booth. After all, what good is your trade show investment with no one to talk with? Interactive games or quizzes on individual kiosks, a prime giveaway for attending a booth demo, and contests for filling out a lead are a few ideas. Some old-school backyard favorites are making a comeback, like a bean bag toss or a putting green. Now that you have activities planned, consider hiring a team of trade show pros to engage attendees and invite them into your booth. Keep plenty of branded gifts on hand as incentives. Like it or not, people like free stuff.
Despite a few things that could have been improved upon, the overall feeling was joy and excitement to be back together again. It felt like life as we knew it! At least a reasonable facsimile. Congratulations to World of Concrete 2021 for safely holding the show and providing a warm and welcoming space to reconnect with our friends and colleagues, customers, and to forge new relationships.
As Jean Howard, TPG Director of Business Development says:
“Sometimes you don’t know what you have ’til it’s gone! Our last long stretch of only being able to reach our audience through virtual/digital efforts has really taught us the value of face-to-face engagements, especially in the trade show exhibit area! The eagerness and appreciation of physical interaction with its ability to register body and facial expressions was palpable at WOC. We’re ready to apply our virtual experience learnings to this, another new beginning!”
Humankind. Pass it on.
TPG is a boutique event marketing agency specializing in integrated virtual and live trade show and event marketing experiences. Let’s create something amazing together.