“The Show’s Return Marked Another Step Toward Normalcy”

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“The Show’s Return Marked Another Step Toward Normalcy”

By Blair Potter | Jun 11, 2021

Mark Levine says the May announcement from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that vaccinated people are safe without masks had an impact on the Atlanta Home Show, which was held May 21-23 at the Cobb Galleria Centre.

“We believe it only helped provide a layer of assurance for our audience who really did want to come back to shows and events,” says Levine, show manager for Marketplace Events, which produces the Atlanta Home Show. “We encouraged masks but didn’t require them and that did make a difference.”

He says that the show was moved from March to May to ensure the safety of all involved, which did mean that certain exhibitors were unable to participate and resulted in a condensed marketing and promotion window.

“In January, COVID-19 was at peak, and no one was sure the show would happen in March if at all—then it got delayed a bit,” Levine says. “We did utilize social media a bit more than last year, but marketing is moving more towards social and digital even without the pandemic.”

“At the show, there was a buzz in the air, an excitement that people were happy to be back.”

He says the makeup of the show itself wasn’t dramatically altered by the pandemic.

“We proactively spaced out the booths that tend to gather crowds for more room on the floor, created signage to encourage social distancing and posted hand-sanitizing stations throughout the show,” Levine says. “Our show format remained very similar, and the mix of vendors and products was very much the same, too. The demand for home improvement products has surged across the board, so every category of vendor had interest from our show guests.”

He says an online virtual showroom developed early on allowed guests to browse and interact with exhibitors before the show.

“It proved to be such a great complement to the physical version of the Atlanta Home Show, but it can never replace the face-to-face exchange guests experience at the show,” Levine says. “At the show, there was a buzz in the air, an excitement that people were happy to be back. There was this collective exhale, this feeling that the show’s return marked another step toward normalcy.”

A Proactive Approach

The fall edition of the Atlanta Home Show will be held at the Cobb Galleria Centre Sept. 10-12, and it’s one of many events on the books for the venue. But pandemic-era events are nothing new for the Cobb Galleria Centre, which reopened following a pandemic-related closure in July 2020.

Prior to reopening, we spent several months collaborating with our industry colleagues in Georgia to identify best practices for a safe reopening,” says Michele Swann, general manager and CEO, Cobb Galleria Centre. “From that collaboration, we created the Galleria Safety First Reopening Guidelines for our clients to use in planning and executing their events with us. As the CDC and the state of Georgia have recently relaxed many of the protocols for events, our guidelines have evolved as well. However, some things are here to stay, such as enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, more hand-sanitizer stations, going cashless and having a staff member who is certified in infection mitigation.”

She says the venue has hosted a trio of safe and successful trade shows in February and March: the Atlanta Shoe Market, Atlanta Jewelry Show and Southeast Flooring Market. The Atlanta Shoe Market is the center’s largest event since the pandemic began, featuring 1,100 buyers (about 70 percent of the show’s typical attendance—similar to the exhibitor participation rate) and using approximately 170,000 square feet of exhibit space.

“The contributing factor to why we opened successfully was because we took an immediate, proactive approach to establishing best practices with the creation of the Galleria Safety First Guidelines,” Swann says. “That helped our clients move forward with their events and lead our industry into recovery. Our staff has been committed to do whatever it takes to make events happen, with safety as our No. 1 priority.”
She says when it comes to hosting safe in-person events as the industry recovers from the pandemic, people need to see it to believe it.

“That message has been carried over to our social media, with video, and in public relations by showing planners, exhibitors, guests and our partners what a safe and successful event looks like,” Swann says. “Visuals have been key. People needed to see it to believe that we are actually hosting events and what the safety precautions look like, such as temperature screenings, signage and wider aisles.”



Blair Potter
Blair Potter

Blair Potter is managing editor for The Meeting Professional. He likes toys and collects cats (or is it the other way around?).