Last February, the Jewelers International Showcase (JIS) held its spring show at Florida’s Miami Beach Convention Center. It was the last physical show the U.S. arm of Reed Exhibitions held before the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down. (Reed Exhibitions owns JCK and JCKonline.)
From March 22–24, JIS will again hold its spring show at the Miami Beach Convention Center. In an odd but striking bit of symmetry, JIS will also be the first live event Reed U.S. has held since the onset of COVID-19.
Of course, holding a trade show in 2021 is very different than mounting one in 2020, and JIS is rolling out a long list of safety precautions to keep the event safe.
Jordan Tuchband, industry vice president for JIS Events, says that Reed and other trade show organizers—generally fierce competitors—have spent the last year brainstorming safety guidelines so they could get back to holding live events again.
“We’ve discussed what they’re doing, what we’re doing, what the medical guidance is, what the state guidance is, what the guidance is from the venue,” he says. “When it comes to health and safety, we’re tackling it as an industry.”
Among the precautions that JIS has installed:
• Before they enter the show, attendees must pass a contactless temperature screening.
• Everyone in the venue must wear a mask or some kind of proper face covering—a requirement that goes beyond Florida state law. If attendees don’t have a mask, one will be provided for them.
• Hand sanitizer stations will be installed throughout the show floor.
• The venue now has enhanced air filtration, and regularly undergoes a deep cleaning.
• Transparent barriers will enable physical distancing at registration and service stations. Physical barriers or plastic face shields (on top of the masks) will be required in exhibitor booths where six-foot social distancing cannot be maintained.
• Registration will be self-service, via automated kiosk.
• There’s a “no-handshake policy,” which will be reiterated through signs.
• Smart readers have been installed so attendees don’t have to trade business cards. “They just tap their badge at the end of the day,” says Tuchband, “and they’ll get a trip report that says, ‘Here’s all the places you stopped, here is all the information from all of those vendors and their contact information.’ ”
• The aisles will be wider, and the food court has also been reconfigured to allow for greater social distancing. “The chairs are more spaced out, so a table that once held 10 people now holds four,” Tuchband says. And all the food will be served individually wrapped.
Even with all these precautions in place, some may still be wary of attending. But Tuchband is convinced that people are determined to get back to normal.
“There’s definitely demand on the attendee side,” he says. “The holiday season turned out better than a lot of retailers anticipated. They have run through most of the goods they had on hand and are scrambling to get inventory, but they’re also looking for something new. They are pretty much required to work with their existing suppliers since there’s not traveling sales reps. There’s a lot of pent-up demand out there, and suppliers wanting to take advantage of it.”
And while no one can be sure what will happen with COVID-19 six months from now, Tuchband expects a lot of the same measures will be in place at this year’s JCK Show, which recently moved its 2021 edition to August.
Despite the new rules, in the end, a show is a show—and Tuchband expects that, after a year off, people will be excited to hit the floor again.
“One of the best parts about what we do is the face-to-face element,” he says. “Even though everyone’s wearing masks and all the other things, you just learn so much, so fast, at a show. And it’s very hard to replicate that without a physical event. I’m really excited. I’m counting the days.”
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