First live trade show of 2021 was a success!

Surf Expo jumped right into 2021 with a live, in-person trade show last week.

The live trade show was held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando Florida. There were over 2500 exhibitors and from what we understand somewhere around 25,000 attendees. In most every way it felt like a typical Orlando trade show with freight handling, POV marshaling, electrical and hardworking exhibitors getting their booths show ready.

From all we could see, the move-in was smooth and orderly. For us, Shepard Exposition and Surf Expo were both refreshingly approachable and helpful. Clearly everyone wanted this show to be a success.


A few health and safety additions that caught our eye:

    • Temperature checks at all entrances. Once your temperature was checked, you received a wrist band that showing you passed with normal temperature. Each day had a different color band and each day you had to get your temperature checked with a simple scan of the forehead. Quick and easy! We personally didn’t see anyone turned away with high temperature either before, during or after the show.


    • As expected, there were many signs to wear your mask. We witnessed very little resistance to mask wearing as most people by this stage seem to be used to wearing one in public. I particularly liked how the show had a number of people simply walking the show floor holding a small round sign reminding people to wear their mask. They simply walked by without saying a word. Kudos to whoever came up with that approach. It’s what stood out to me the most.


    • There were no shortages of hand sanitizing stations at the entrances and throughout the hall.


  • There we’re a few very wide main aisles. These made it easy to avoid others if you were headed to the front entrance or the back of the show hall to the food concession area. Tables were far apart with people dedicated to keeping them clean and sanitized.

As an Exhibit House we were curious to see how other Exhibit Houses adapted to wearing masks and providing sanitizing. For our client, we included a small automatic hand sanitizing dispenser for the corner of the reception counter at no extra charge. We also brought disinfectant spray and dedicated microfiber towels that we used at the end of install and the end of each show day, and again in the morning before the show opened.

Our client didn’t ask about these practices and we didn’t make a big deal about it. We just did it. These were all simply minor modifications of what we normally do. Our client didn’t make a big deal about it either way and we didn’t see other exhibitors hyper focused on sanitizing their booths.

Keep in mind that the majority of exhibitors at the show would fall in the category of DIY bringing in and installing their own booth. My guess is that labor companies and exhibit houses would be the ones heavily focusing on these practices and we look forward to seeing if that’s the case as shows continue in 2021. Also it could be that each exhibitor sanitized like we did and simply didn’t make a big deal about having a sanitized booth.

I was also curious to see if exhibitors used plexiglass dividers in the booth spaces, there were a few but not many. I didn’t expect anything different as I feel plexiglass dividers are fairly ineffective as I’ve notice everywhere I go people simply talk around them instead of trying to talk through them.

This show made the decision to not have aisle carpet. We’re not sure if that decision was health and safety related. We could understand that foregoing aisle carpet allows less workers to be in the show hall before and after the event and therefore the event can move in quicker and move out quicker. But Surf Expo, with its many DIY exhibitors, I would guess it’s quite common to not have booth carpet. Seems to work for this show. So eliminating aisle carpet likely was no big deal.

I really don’t know if the attendee account met Surf Expos expectations or the exhibitors expectations, but there was a steady flow of attendees on all three days of the event. For sure, everyone seemed glad to be there to support the event and get back to business. I worried that maybe our own client was having low attendance, but they told us that they actually had a number of solid conversations on each day of the event! They were very happy with the shows results.

Surf Expo was a very good first live event for 2021. It was the right kind of show, in the right kind of exhibit hall and in the right show city. More than anything, this show demonstrates that trade shows can be safe for exhibitors and attendees with a little effort and common sense. For our team, it was really good to be back to work!

Surf Expo has two Orlando trade shows each year, The next one is in September. We suspect that their September show will be an even bigger success for them and for their exhibitors and attendees, as it comes after everyone will have access to a vaccine.

Thank you Surf Expo for forging ahead to restart live events safely and successfully!

It’s a good start to 2021.

Quick two minute video.