PMMI says it is looking at two options for the 2020 PACK EXPO event, including an in-person/virtual hybrid and an all-virtual show. The group says it will make a final decision by August.

Right now, PMMI is moving forward with the hybrid plan for the event, slated to be held at McCormick Place in Chicago from Nov. 8-11.

“We are in communication with McCormick Place, Chicago Convention Bureau and Illinois state leaders to get clarity on the plan and its implications, and will take all appropriate action,” PMMI says. “As soon as we know more about his plan and specifically what it means for PACK EXPO, we will release more information.”

Illinois is following a multi-phase re-opening plan as it grapples with COVID-19. The plan ends with Phase 5. At that point, conventions are allowed again. The state is currently in Phase 4.

The state describes Phase 5 as “testing, tracing and treatment are widely available throughout the state. Either a vaccine is developed to prevent additional spread of COVID-19, a treatment option is readily available that ensures health care capacity is no longer a concern, or there are no new cases over a sustained period.”

PMMI said it has been challenging to navigate Illinois’ reopening guidelines.

“As of today, we are scheduled to have our show, and will consider all current health guidelines necessary to create a safe and productive environment, complemented with a virtual element to maximize connections with attendees facing travel restrictions,” PMMI said. “Unfortunately, the lack of clarity in both the governor’s and mayor’s plans around when large events will be permitted in Chicago makes it impossible for us to be confident in what format our show will be delivered, but we can assure you that there will be a show, whether in-person with a virtual option, or all-virtual. PMMI will also assess, even if we do get the green light from the governor, if it is safe and makes sense to proceed under guidelines provided.”

PMMI describes the hybrid option as “a combination of an in-person event operated with best practices for social distancing and taking all current sanitation recommendations into account to offer a safe environment for all participants; as well as, a virtual feature to the show for buyers unable to travel to the event. The hybrid component is included for contracted exhibitors for the in-person event.”

The virtual component of the event would include, but will not be limited to:

  • Live chats – both 1:1 and group
  • Product demonstrations via live video
  • Enhanced lead generation
  • Comprehensive product gallery with images and videos
  • Daily keynote sessions
  • Targeted educational content

However, PMMI also is considering an all-virtual event option if needed.

“If a physical event in Chicago is not permitted, PMMI Media Group is preparing a brand-new virtual platform that will allow companies live interaction with buyers online as well as offer attendees the opportunity to stroll virtual showrooms for solutions through a highly defined search capability on the platform's interface,” the group says. “If this path is taken, current exhibitors will have the option to participate in this new event and apply payment from the physical event or choose to not participate in the virtual platform. Participation in this virtual showcase would have no impact on priority for future shows. A final decision will be made in August.”

If the current hybrid plan moves forward, PMMI said it will not offer a virtual-only option for exhibitors. 

“PMMI is planning a virtual component to complement the in-person event,” the group said. “All exhibitors that are contracted for the in-person event will be included in the virtual portion and provided with means to connect directly with attendees through their online Exhibitor Dashboard. The virtual component is a complementary upgrade for exhibitors contracted for the in-person event. There is not a virtual-only option available for the hybrid event.” 

The organization also outlined a number of safety measures it was planning for an on-site show, including requiring face masks, distancing measure and hygiene reminders, offering pre-packaged food options, as well as masked and gloved service by trained servers throughout the dining spaces. Sanitizing stations also will be set up throughout the convention center.

In addition, PMMI said McCormick Place has committed to achieving the GBAC Star Facility Accreditation, which includes adhering to protocols in place for disinfection and cleaning of all public spaces, restrooms, meeting rooms and high-touch areas.

As part of the virtual option component of the hybrid event, companies will be able to do live, 15-minute product demos.

“If you have equipment, you can take your smartphone or tablet into your exhibit booth or out onto your plant floor, walk around the equipment as it’s running, and show different aspects of its operation. You can also include pre-recorded video during your demo,” PMMI said. 

PMMI also said exhibitors do not need to plan on making a 3D rendering of their booths.

“Research we conducted with attendees show they do NOT value fancy 3D renderings of booths on a computer screen," PMMI says. "What attendees DO value is being able to quickly understand what products you have, see live demos, and connect with your experts in real time."