Navigating the Trade Show Maze: Unpacking the Mental Health impact

The Maze:

Traditionally, trade shows have proven their significance through the ability to network with like-minded people and organisations, they allow for showcasing products, market research, brand exposure, education and training. But how relevant is all of this now in the age of digitalisation and a post-Covid world?

The global mental health crisis now is more prominent than ever before, an important question to ask is how does potentially long-distance travelling and being surrounding by hundreds to thousands of people impact your mental well-being. It is a particularly substantial topic to discuss in the New Year due to the constant bombardment of new and upcoming events.

Is it time now to move away from these big events, ease up the travel and feelings associated with in-person events and trade tradeshows but instead focus on smaller, or online events tailored to your needs?

The New Norm – Post-Covid Realities:

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a 25% increase of the prevalence in anxiety and depression. With social anxiety having been increased in adults generally since the pandemic, it can be assumed that many people may not be as happy as others having to throw themselves into crowded rooms, needing to socialise with strangers as a part of their jobs. Post-Covid there may be an increased discomfort with social and health anxiety, travelling large distances only to stand in a packed room with strangers, along with the pressure to perform.

There has however been the trend of using a hybrid model where people can choose to attend the event in person or virtually. This gives people a much greater opportunity to feel safe in an environment whilst still taking part in the event. However, not all trade shows use the hybrid model, many may not use it effectively and some online attendees feel like “lesser citizens” by not being able to take part in the same manner as those who are there in person. So, can true hybrid events really work?

In a technological age, virtual events can often outshine physical ones. Employees and attendees are able to attend events in the comfort of their own space without the stress of travelling, therefore how relevant are in-person major trade shows? We have seen many businesses and individuals focusing on smaller, yet more specialised events tailored to cater to their own needs and meeting the exact type of people you need to engage with without the large exhibition costs, travelling, social or health anxiety.

Employees Caught in the Crossfire:

It may seem a simple task, sending an employee to a trade show for a day or more. Moving beyond connecting, buzz words and deal-making, what is often not taken into consideration is the mental toll that taking hold of an individual who must traverse the mental difficulties of unexpected disruptions, protests and/or dissent. Employees in this situation must prove themselves braver than most in duelling corporate professionalism whilst combatting their own personal well-being .

What are, if any, the mechanisms being put in place by both the employers and the tradeshows to provide tools for coping in these kinds of situations? The world is not what it once was pre-Covid. These considerations must be taken seriously to protect the well-being of these individuals who may be struggling inwardly but smile and present themselves professionally anyway to compete in these high-stakes environments. How can we all help to seamlessly integrate practices and tools into the fabric of the industry?

The Role of Employers and Organisers:

In the orchestration of trade shows, employers and organisers wield significant influence over the well-being of participants. The responsibility of addressing mental health concerns falls not to one faction but is rather a shared role. Initiatives and policies take centre stage to enhance the mental resilience of those stepping into the frantic world of trade shows. How can employers and organisers play a pivotal role in nurturing an environment where professional success doesn’t come at the cost of mental well-being, and what concrete steps can be taken to foster a culture of holistic health within the industry? Perhaps these are all considerations which should be taken into account before it is too late to reserve the damage which could be done.

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