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The Future Of Trade Shows in Orlando: What to Expect

The good news is that the train wreck that was 2020 is officially over. The bad news is that some issues from last year, namely coronavirus, will carry over into 2021. 

This means that the trade show market is going to continue to struggle for at least the early part of the year. The number of cases continues to rise and reach record levels, causing new shutdowns in several states and continued suspensions of events. 

There’s a lot of anxiety about the future of trade shows in Orlando in 2021, but we’re here to put your mind at ease. Read on to learn about the future of Orlando trade shows and why we’re optimistic that events will return this year. 

When Will Orlando Trade Shows Get Back To Normal? 

It’s hard to say when everything will go back to normal, and it’s hard to honestly define normal at this point. If you define normal as no masks, no social distancing, and everyone acting like there’s nothing to worry about, you’re in for a long ride. 

There’s a good chance that we won’t see a mask-free, 300 people packed into a small space event until 2022, and even then, there’s going to be a strange feeling about it. 

For our purposes, we’ll define normal as the ability to go to events and trade shows without worrying about canceled events. We’ll also say that normal means that travel without restrictions opens back up. 

With that said, Florida will recover faster than most states. There are a few reasons for this.

First, Florida’s government isn’t putting the state under the same lockdowns as other states, like California. Their economy has been able to remain open, meaning that once the vaccine against COVID-19 reaches more people, they’re in a better position to ‘get back to normal’. 

Due to Orlando being the most popular vacation spot, the city will be one of the hottest spots for trade shows. Orlando has always been a top spot for events because of venues and things to do. 

Companies love holding events in Florida because of Disney, Universal, Sea World, world class restaurants, proximity to beaches, and the weather. You can hold a December event in Orlando and still pack shorts. It doesn’t get much better than that. 

Orlando Will Lead The Way

Places like the Orange County Convention Center will see a huge bounce back within months. They’re designed for large events and have the resources necessary to keep everyone safe once trade shows get back to normal. 

We’ve already seen large events happen at the OCCC, such as the Orlando Auto Show in December. Attendees wore masks and practiced social distancing, leading to a safe event that saw a high attendance from people all over the country. 

There are several benefits to holding trade shows in Orlando at the OCCC. The venue is on International Drive, home to amazing restaurants and within walking distance to several hotels, including the Hyatt Regency, Rosen Centre Hotel, Tru by Hilton, and more. 

The OCCC is also right off of I-4, making it easy to find and get to. Attendees are also only a short drive away from the major theme parks, meaning they can bring their families, stay at one of those resorts, and let their kids enjoy Disney while they go off to the trade show. 

For those who may still feel hesitant about trade shows, they should know that the OCCC is one of the safest facilities in the nation. They’ve recently received the Global Biorisk Advisory Council® (GBAC) STAR™ accreditation on outbreak prevention, response, and recovery. This designation only goes to facilities that can prove that they have plans in place to prevent outbreaks. There are stringent requirements required for this accreditation, and OCCC passed each with flying colors. 

Even though events are coming back, there are some changes that we need to address. 

What Changes Should I Expect During Trade Shows in Orlando?

Even though a comeback is on the horizon for the trade show market, there are going to be some changes for the first year or so. 

First, events will still practice social distancing and masks in most cases. While we know that this is an inconvenience, we also know that those two steps are the best way to protect the people around you and yourself. Even for those who don’t believe that mask mandates are necessary, it’s an easy way to make others around you feel better. 

For social distancing, you can expect to see trade show booths spread out over a wider space instead of being crunched together to maximize space. This step could actually be a good thing; first, no one wants to have strangers brushing against them all day. Second, more space gives businesses more opportunities to take a one-on-one approach with attendees and get creative with their display designs. 

We also expect to see trade show traffic increase this year once confidence returns. Millions of Americans have had to socially distance and stay in place for the better part of a year. They’re ready to get out and meet potential clients. 

What better way to get out and enjoy a convention than going to sunny Orlando? 

Benefits of Trade Shows in Orlando for Businesses

You often hear about cities trying to steal away conferences and trade shows from Orlando, but the chances of that happening are slim to none. There are too many advantages to holding business events in Orlando. 

First, the OCCC is a massive building. They’ve designed their building specifically for large conventions and used a ‘business first’ attitude to drive their decision making. 

The facility is 7 million square feet separated into two buildings. There’s 2,055,222 square feet of exhibition space, 471,119 square feet of meeting rooms spread out among 70 rooms, and 226 breakout rooms. There’s also over 6,000 parking spots and shuttles available. Combined with the hotels in the area that are within a five-minute walking distance, this means that you can have thousands of guests to a convention. 

World-Class Amenities

The OCCC offers amenities that you’ll only find in the Orlando area. 

The center has the FedEx business center, which allows attendees to get some work done during downtime without having to go back to their hotel. The state-of-the-art center features shipping and receiving, email and internet browsing, office supplies, the ability to print business cards, signs, posters, banners, and more, faxing, and computer rentals. 

The convention center also offers free WiFi in all public spaces, bag/coat check and airline check-in, a shoe shine area, on-site dining, and massage therapy chairs along the concourse. 

The main goal of the OCCC is to allow guests at trade shows and conventions to attend events without having to go anywhere else to have everything they need. This gives you the opportunity to market to more people without having to deal with the typical lulls in traffic that other facilities see. 

Amenities Make it Easy to Network

Thanks to the hotels that are close by, attendees don’t have to travel far to get to the trade show. That also means that you could have thousands of clients within a 5-mile radius. 

If you want to seal the deal with a high-value client, you can take them out to eat at one of the many exciting restaurants in the immediate area. You can wine and dine them at The Oceanaire Seafood Room, enjoy lamb chops, pita bread, and belly dancers at Taverna Opa Orlando, or take them out for an amazing steak at Spencer’s for Steak and Chops. 

Looking for something fun to do with your employees while at a trade-show? Dave and Busters is right across the street, and Andretti Indoor Karting & Games is a five-minute walk from the convention center. 

You have everything you need at your fingertips when you attend a trade show in Orlando. It’s one of the many reasons why the area will see a resurgent 2021. 

The Orlando Area Leads The Nation in COVID Recovery

Mayor Jerry Demings has made it a point to ensure the safety of those who visit Orlando from the moment they step off the plane. 

This is especially true for trade show attendees. Under the leadership of Orange County Convention Center Executive Director Mark Tester, the OCCC has implemented a robust program led by the latest science and data. 

The center follows an extensive sanitation schedule that meets the standards of the International Sanitary Supply Association. Frequently used areas and surfaces are regularly sanitized, and temperature monitoring stations are in place. 

The center partners with Orlando Health to give each group their own custom medical concierge program. There is a hospital across the street that can provide testing if needed and medical help for anyone that might experience an emergency, and you can find easy to use sanitation and handwashing stations throughout the facility. 

What About Traveling into Orlando? 

One of the biggest concerns about trade shows in Orlando is that most people will have to travel to get there. There’s no question that airline travel has had to face special challenges throughout the pandemic, but Orlando has spent the resources necessary to rise to that challenge. 

Phil Brown of the Orlando International Airport has made it his personal mission to ensure that those flying in have a safe experience. The airport spares no expense to make sure that travelers remain safe from the moment they step off the plane. 

There are extensive protective measures in place, including frequent sanitation, mask mandates, social distancing, and specialized training. Orlando International is one of the safest airports in the U.S. for flyers. 

The hotels in the Orlando area have also stepped up to meet the challenges of doing business during a pandemic. The cleaning procedures they now follow exceed the CDC guidelines and adapt as new information about COVID-19 comes to light. 

The Orlando area and the OCCC leads the way in welcoming back trade show attendees and businesses. By following the science and using the latest technology and sanitation methods, they’re committed to keeping everyone safe and the economy open. 

Should I Plan On Attending Trade Shows in Orlando? 

If you’re ready to get back to attending and displaying at trade shows, there’s no better and safer place to do so than Orlando. The city has come together with their business partners to create a safe environment where business and safety thrive together. 

There are other options as well, and we’re big fans of telling our clients to diversify. You should always have a digital plan in place for trade shows as well by developing virtual displays to go along with your in-person strategy. 

Rockway Reach is an exciting program that helps you design and implement amazing digital displays for clients that can’t make it to Orlando. Not only are these designs great for those who can’t attend conferences, but they’re also an amazing way to reach out to potential clients 24/7 from around the world. 

If you plan on displaying in Florida conventions, there are some steps you can take to both attract visitors to trade show booths while also building customer confidence. 

Use Open Space to Guide Visitors Through Your Display

The standard display features someone walking up to a table, getting some swag and a business card, and going on to the next stand. This was in part because of stands getting crammed together, but with extra space comes extra opportunities

Instead of designing a standard display, practice social distancing by guiding your visitors through your display, using each ‘stop’ to take them through a step in your sales funnel or story. Use arrows on the floor to tell your visitors where to go and have them walk around your display as you give them information about your company. 

At the end of their ‘journey’, you can give them their swag and get their information. This creates a memorable experience and allows you to maximize the space you have while also keeping everyone at a safe distance. It’s a win-win!

Provide Your Own Sanitation Station

In the past, stands would provide free snacks and water to get visitors. Florida conventions are notoriously hot because of the amount of people and weather, so attendees would flock to stands with water and drinks. 

Now, of course, those same attendees will flock towards displays that offer them safety. Make your stand the best at this. 

Advertise your own ‘sanitation station’ using banners and signage. Give out bottles of hand sanitizer with your logo on them. Design some cool facemasks branded towards your company and hand them out. You can also give out sanitizing wipes using the same strategy. 

People will respect the fact that you take their safety seriously, and every time they put on your facemask or use your sanitizer, they’ll remember your company. A challenge is nothing more than another opportunity to excel. Use the challenge of the pandemic as a way to excel in providing excellent service through safety and potential clients will reward you. 

Use Videos as Part of Your Display

How many times have you seen a company thank their employees for continuing to serve during the pandemic? While these companies are grateful to their employees, of course, these ads serve another purpose: they remind customers that businesses are really a collection of individuals. 

The same is true of your business, of course. 

2020 has been a tough year for everyone, especially for employees who fill rolls that tend to get overlooked. No one wants to see a CEO talk about the struggle about dealing with COVID in their million dollar home (see the ill-fated Imagine video by celebrities), but they do want to see a CEO that appreciates the rank-and-file employees that make that home possible during a trying time. 

Have videos that showcase the greatest strength of your business: your employees. Talk about their dedication during the pandemic and how they’ve had to alter their behaviors to help your business survive. Talk about the sacrifices they’ve made to help your customers. 

We’re not saying that you need Sarah McLaughlin in the background. You know the struggles that your employees have had to endure this year, so make sure your customers do too. 

When you show your employees the appreciation they deserve, it does three things. First, it builds morale. Second, clients want to work with businesses that have a strong culture. Third, it humanizes your business. Is this a way to help connect with potential clients? Absolutely, but more importantly, it’s the right thing to do. 

Put Your Superstars Front and Center

Have you ever been to a display where the person working it is on their phone making plans for the day after the convention? Of course you have, and unfortunately, it’s more common than you think. 

Far too often, people view trade shows as a vacation. They sit behind the display, wait for other people to engage them, and don’t show the excitement needed to attract attention. This presents a serious problem though: if your representative isn’t excited about what you offer, why should anyone else be? 

Now that trade shows in Orlando are making a comeback, it’s important to put your superstars front and center. These early trade shows are going to be an important measure for how well your business responded to the pandemic. They’re going to show everyone that you’re ready to rebound from this past year. 

You need someone that has the energy to convey that message. 

Make sure you have a high-ranking executive at your next convention as possible. You want to send the message that you’re taking this opportunity that many people took for granted seriously. 

You should also empower those that will work at your trade show booth. Make sure you give them the information they need to answer questions from visitors. Give them the ability to make decisions. If they think making a deal will get you a client, authorize them to do so. You don’t want a potential lead walking away when you can close the deal then and there. 

Make sure that the person you put at your display is energetic, friendly, and invested. You could even offer bonuses if they meet certain benchmarks so that they take ownership of the results you see. Give them the opportunity and the motivation to succeed and your business will see positive results. 

We’re Here To Help Make Your Next Orlando Trade Show A Success

As you can see, Orlando is an ideal place for trade shows in 2021. Florida will be the first to recover from the pandemic, and Orlando is already primed and ready to get back to work. They’re situated to resume their place as the top trade show destination in the world, thanks to a focus on safety and economic development. 

Here at Rockway, we’re ready to help you get back to work! We have the tools, experience, and industry knowledge you need to pull in more leads at trade shows in Orlando. We’ve helped hundreds of businesses of all sizes increase the ROI they see from their trade show marketing budget. 

From design to implementation, we’re with you every step of the way. Contact us today to learn how we can help you exceed your expectations in 2021!

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