FlyingTypers Logo
Family Aid 2020
   Vol. 20 No. 12
Wednesday March 24, 2021
Will Trade Shows & Face To Face Come Back?
Anette Palm

     The quick answer is of course they will. Right now while you are reading this story COVID-19 vaccines continue to arrive in doses by the millions almost everywhere on earth. At the same time eager cargo events are reaching out entreating us to join a webinar or attend a trade show convention or a regional meeting. The voices, like crickets in summer, will only continue to rise and fall on the wind with greater urgency, as populations reach herd immunity and life thankfully drifts back to normal. So where do you go to make sense out of all the conflicting information out there about getting back to normal? Commercial businesses charged with putting on events for air cargo while struggling to get back to business, may not be the best single source for that information.
     While we have utmost faith in the fine people who provide the trade events in air cargo we have been thinking that in a world turned upside down for the past 14 months it’s good practice to follow what USA President Ronald Reagan once said: “Trust but verify,” declared the 40th POTUS.
     We decided to get some expert advice on trade shows and meetings: Anette Palm is a Director at Worldwide Convention Specialists (WCS) based in Krichenbach, Germany. Anette Palm moved to Australia with her parents and brother when she was nine. She had to leave her German school and willingly embraced Australian education, and soon developed a passion for the hospitality industry.
Anette Palm and Family     Anette worked in Paris and Geneva in different UN positions and continued her studies in tourism. In the meantime, a brief return to Germany, Cupid’s arrow was waiting in the hands of her husband to be, Ulli, who was in service as policeman. After her marriage to Ulli, Anette wanted to get back to Australia and the couple went to live in Canberra in 1987. This is where Anette’s family was living and where Lisa, Anette’s daughter, was born in 1996. With the acquired experience in Hotel & Convention Centers, Ms. Palm bought into an established Professional Conference Management (PCO) company in Canberra, where she was Director for international conference organization. In 2000 Anette Palm moved with her husband and daughter from Canberra, Australia to Germany, where she set up Worldwide Convention Specialists (WCS), a dynamic global company specializing in research, telemarketing and international representation for the convention and meetings industry.

     Anette is one smart cookie when it comes to the straight scoop and a perfect parallel partner who is driving big time gatherings and has words to share about conventions today and tomorrow that every stakeholder in air cargo needs to read and absorb. One simple fact upfront: the rules for trade shows and conventions in the COVID-19 Year of 2021 are all the same, no matter the industry.
     We are lucky to have Marco Sorgetti pick up the story.

When Meetings Were a Bonanza

     When I worked at FIATA there was much travel and many meetings were on my menu. On May 2nd 2017, just four months before retiring, I was still jumping from one plane to the other. On that day I arrived in Vienna to attend the three days’ conference organized by the Association of Association Executives (AAE), where I had been invited to speak. AAE was holding its World Congress at the Austria Centre Vienna, a magnificent congress venue in the former capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire, a city that has historical and artistic treasures capable of attracting millions. It was the very place to be for me, considering FIATA was holding a different congress in a different continent every year and specialized information was always welcome.

Anette Palm Expertise & Passion

     Among the many initiatives in Vienna, a full day had been devoted to digital related content, looking at member engagement strategies, successful online communities and “tribal” marketing. All this sounds more familiar today than it did then, for good reasons. Among the many experts in Vienna, Anette Palm captured my attention with her expertise and passion. She was my muse into this journey: it was a pleasure to meet her and to learn some of the tricks of the trade from her. Here we reveal some further thoughts as all of us roll up our sleeves for vaccine shots and getting back to work.
     I asked Anette in this difficult period in her work, could she perhaps tell us something about the way WCS has reacted to the COVID19 constraints and what her plans are for future business?
     “What happened . . . we felt the impact shortly after the first wave a year ago, on two fronts: starting in March 2020 some clients ‘froze’ their contracts and others reduced their requirements. The quality, accuracy and availability of our research was drastically reduced because the target organizations’ staff were sent to work from home, furloughed, and in some unfortunate cases even retrenched. Our representation and convention research falls within the knowledge economy, covering all social and economic sectors represented in various associations and other entities both in the private and public sectors. We look at how they decide where to hold their events and what are their requirements; information we collect and share with our clients, which alas suddenly became unavailable. The organizations’ uncertainty regarding their future was making it difficult for us: very few organizations were making any decisions.”

Focus on a Wider Approach

     “Then our focus shifted towards building on our existing relationships and supporting our clients. We started doing regular virtual meetings with our clients to ‘check-in’, provide updates and even just to stay in touch. We thought this approach could add value in the long run and decided to continue with these calls post-pandemic. During the early stages of lockdowns and restrictions we started to receive requests that went outside of our normal scope of work.”

What Was Happening?

     “Our interlocutors wanted to know what was happening in the world and how venues, governments and associations were responding to the crisis and what changes were to be expected. Our own mini-response team was actively collecting and sharing a different type of data, almost completely new for our industry: cancellations, postponements, health and safety protocol changes, legal implications of cancellations, postponements, etc. With such information our contacts could form their own new health policies and procedures, and stay on top of events within the industry.”

The Change Has Come

     “With our industry seeing major events like IBTM and IMEX cancelled, along with our own sales calls, destination educational visits and other partner-related projects, we had some extra time on our hands, so we could cope with the explosion of online webinars and virtual network opportunities: we now had time to build new relationships, in a way we had never done before, and forge new partnerships in the process. That strategy turned out to pay off in the longer term.”

It’s Still Early Days in Beating COVID-19

    Anette added: “Yes, there were ups and downs, but we remain cautiously optimistic. If anything this virus has taught us is that nothing is certain . . . The industry is known for its resilience as it has demonstrated before in other international emergencies. It is still early days with the vaccine roll-outs and there is still scepticism and resistance to travel, even though everyone is eager to meet in person again. Social interaction is missing: a cup of tea, a pint at the bar sometimes lead to a struck deal more promptly than a day’s on-line dialog. That is everyone’s experience. I think it will come back, we just need a bit of patience.”

Anette Palm at events pre pandemic

Face to Face Is Gone into 2022

     For the time being COVID 19 has switched off nearly all public gatherings in the area of airfreight, cargo and forwarding, has the same happened in other sectors or is it different, we asked Anette.
     “Places of gathering, i.e. venues/churches/arenas/stadiums/etc. were the first to be immediately and reluctantly obliged to shut their doors: these measures almost hit all industries at the same time. This went hand in hand with countries enforcing travel restrictions. With nobody being able to travel or gather, all major international in-person meetings in March and April 2020 were either cancelled or postponed in all sectors and regions. Later on, as the technology became available, with a bit more time to plan, meetings pivoted toward a hybrid mode and in some cases became completely virtual. However, most gatherings were, and still are, either cancelled or postponed well into 2022.”

Suffering Is Universal

     Anette added, “so your sector is not the only one suffering, it is pretty common experience everywhere. Association meetings cover industries from medical sciences, constructions, mathematics, human sciences, social sciences, agriculture, finance, transportation, law, etc. For almost every industry there is a federation, society or association, at different levels, be it local, national, regional or international.”

A Glimmer of Local Resilience

     “In my view the impact was initially across the board, now we are seeing some resilience, starting at local level.”

Which Side Are You On?

     We know some forwarders say they miss the travelling and personal connections of the trade shows and conventions, others seem to think their companies are better off without these costs in their budget. We asked Anette, who would you side with and why?
     Anette responded saying, “our industry is closely associated with the hospitality and tourism industry and as such connecting in person is in our nature. What we have seen over and over this past year is the same message: people wishing to return to trade shows and conventions, but the reality is indeed budgets . . . Most had to take cost cutting measures for the current financial year. We see the attendance at live events returning to normal levels very slowly indeed. If budgets come back, so will attendance at our own events, and this forms the foundation for all our networking and business activities. Companies are now looking to amend travel and insurance policies, which will affect future travel as well.”

Winners & Losers in the Swamp

     The assumption is that digital and web based companies are making record profits, whilst convention centers are becoming deserted, we wonder, is this actually true, is this what is actually happening in this market?
     Anette said, “the meetings market is currently swamped with so many virtual offerings available for people to meet. Those who were early to establish and roll-out their offering, or better, had an existing one, were the first to benefit from the situation.
     “Convention centers in their own right have benefited from this by partnering with some AV companies and providing virtual studios. Virtual studios are now found in almost every major convention center, some dedicating as much as up to 4,000 sqm. While some association executives and planners have seen a record number of attendees to their virtual events and the profit along with it, others indicated that it was not worth the time or the expense, and would rather use the resources to plan live events. While most convention centers were and still are deserted, others have rented their spaces out to local and national government as hospitals, treatment and testing spaces, and now for vaccine roll-outs.”

Upgrading The Action

     Anette reiterated, “convention centers are all getting ready to return to business, now that the vaccines are becoming available, and upgrading their virtual solutions, while ensuring new health and safety policies and procedures are implemented. While most are ready for a safe return, it is all subject to when international travel and traveller confidence will come back. The return to ‘normal’ or before COVID-19 era will be gradual, starting with small national meetings, then get back to international ones.”

Virtual Goes Permanent

     “A planner we met recently indicated that the virtual element will now be a permanent part of their future programmes.”

Inside The Global Convention Market

     We asked Anette to weigh in on how the market ownership is reacting to the COVID-19 tsunami? Is there any reshuffle in the market, mergers, conversions?
     She said, “for the most, our market has been able to withstand the impact this emergency has had on the companies. At first it was internal restructuring, then furloughs, followed by some retrenchments. Centers and Bureaus are now starting to look at more cost-cutting exercises, as the knock-on effect is and will be felt for a long time still to come. So far there has only been one association that has closed down completely that we are aware of, and a couple of Professional Conference Organizers that were bought out.”

Convention Business Slow to Recover

     We wondered, how will these changes impact prospects for convention operators, moving past the pandemic? We wanted to know if there is a difference between her expectations in her area and her prospect regarding the wider areas of society?
     She said, “the convention industry will be the last to recover, as it is based on the principle of gathering in large numbers. For us, our clients are now starting to look at future years and reinstating their sales and marketing activities; associations alike are rethinking their decision-making responsibilities, which means that our research work is also starting to improve. How long it will take to fully recover is unsure at this stage, because we operate in so many countries and they are all differently affected.”

Waiting to Exhale

     We noted in talking to shippers and carriers recently, cargo moved anyway, perhaps with more volatile prices. Switching to her sector, had Anette detected a novel appetite for more face-to-face interaction, maybe at a more select level, or is there a different approach in her area?
     “We are holding our breath and waiting in anticipation for the first time we are able to meet again. Our clients and associations have expressed the same. It all depends on how movement and gatherings will be restricted in the future. It is too early to talk prices right now,” Anette said.

What Tops Your Wish List?

     Anette, if you were given a magic wand and you were able to use it three times, what would you like to see?
     Anette's response was immediate, “my family in Australia first, then my friends, clients and colleagues at the next trade show and thirdly that travel resumes quickly, so that new, safe business may resume for the benefit of all. My parents now live in Launceston in Tasmania and are elderly, so this is why I wish to get back to see them. I try to do this every second year, but with Covid-19, this is not possible right now.”
Marco Sorgetti

If You Missed Any Of The Previous 3 Issues Of FlyingTypers
Access complete issue by clicking on issue icon or
Access specific articles by clicking on article title
Vol. 20 No. 9
Let's all choose to Challenge
Chuckles for March 8, 2021
Where a Woman leads Air Cargo

Vol. 20 No. 10
ATC COVID Call Leads The Way
WOXOF—Where Are We Now?
Happy St. Patrick's Day 2021

Vol. 20 No. 11
QR Cargo—What It Means To Be #1
Chuckles for March 22, 2021
ANA Back To Munich
Not Just Chicks On Choppers
Too Cool For School

Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend • Editor Emeritus-Richard Malkin
Film Editor-Ralph Arend • Special Assignments-Sabiha Arend, Emily Arend

Send comments and news to geoffrey@aircargonews.com
Opinions and comments expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher but remain solely those of the author(s).
Air Cargo News FlyingTypers reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and content. All photos and written material submitted to this publication become the property of All Cargo Media.
All Cargo Media, Publishers of Air Cargo News Digital and FlyingTypers. Copyright ©2021 ACM, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
More@ www.aircargonews.com

recycle100% Green