In light of the government ban on gatherings of 100 people or more, the exhibition industry in South Africa has come to a grinding halt. The Association of African Exhibition Organisers (AAXO) called an open discussion for exhibition organisers and suppliers on 17 March 2020, to discuss strategies on what businesses can do to limit economic damage and to survive this critical period.

The following suggestions were collected and have been published on

  • Identify events that fall within the 90-day ban period that may require postponement or cancellation.
  • Before cancelling, asses the financial risk, negotiate with suppliers where spend has already been allocated and, if possible, transfer and extend their services to a new event date.
  • Enquire about venue availability later in the year to establish if the event can be postponed.
  • Be open to different ways of doing business. Investigate opportunities to partner with other organisers where events cross over, to avoid flooding the market with similar events within close timelines. This will be detrimental to exhibitors and suppliers to the industry.
  • Communicate your decision with all entities involved: from exhibitors, visitors, staff and suppliers, through all lines of communication: website notification, social media notification, a formal press release sent to media partners and the press in general, and send out notifications via email and SMS, and follow through with a telephone call.
  • Publish contact details through which stakeholders can contact you for more information.
  • Have a follow-up plan. Don’t just postpone or cancel, communicate with all stakeholders when the next event will be, and ensure there is longevity for your brand.
  • Where possible, move exhibitors onto the next event / new event dates seamlessly.
  • Do not refrain from refunding customers or issuing them with credits for the next event where necessary, and do not refrain from paying suppliers for services already rendered.
  • Refund paying visitors or delegates, but also exhaust alternatives; like moving them straight onto the new event dates, providing them with a credit towards the next event, or upgrading them for new event dates at no cost, etc.
  • Encourage exhibitors to continue with their marketing plans and stand build preparations for their participation in your next event. This will assist suppliers in the industry to plan for the chaotic second half of the year when exhibitions are back to back. In addition, exhibitors may be motivated to secure current pricing and ensure efficient delivery.
  • Make sure that your internal teams are fully aware of plans and procedures around postponement or cancellation and have a consistent message to all stakeholders.
  • Don’t forget to take care of your staff. Ensure they understand everything about COVID-19, what the symptoms are, and the strict hygiene controls required. If possible, create an environment where your staff can work from home which will allow for self-isolation.
  • If you intend to postpone to 2021 or your new financial year, and have access to insurance, fully understand the requirements of the insurer, follow the protocols that will enable you to make a claim.
  • In the event of postponement, work with the venue and have them create a sign to put up at the venue during show days in case your event participants arrive on the original dates.
  • Monitor social media platforms, in case of questions or negative sentiment.
  • Cancel permits and or licences for shows outside of South Africa if applicable.
AAXO added the comment; “The African exhibition industry has proudly hosted hundreds of exhibitions that have been an essential marketing platform for thousands of brands across industry sectors. The success of these exhibitions is supported by the service excellence of venues and suppliers to the industry.”

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