The following is an article that appeared in Have A Go News WA, May 2021
Across the globe exhibitions have been severely impacted by the pandemic. After March last year, 95% of events that were scheduled were cancelled or postponed. Some tried to transition into virtual events and as restrictions began to slowly ease, hybrid (face to face & virtual) events began to appear. Initial feedback from these has been that people prefer the face-to-face interaction and we are already seeing a return to events. Large crowds at Optus stadium and live music concerts are returning as is WA’s largest expo for assistive technologies.
When ATSA’s 2nd Independent Living Expos in Perth was postponed, it was not only suppliers that were affected, more than a four hundred allied health professionals and visitors had registered to attend. The expo was rescheduled twice and as the vaccines begin to roll out, confidence in attending events is returning, under the new covid safe norm.
Have A Go News asked Interpoint’s Managing Director Simon Cooper who has been running the ATSA expos since 2005, how final preparations for the May event were coming along, and what differences exhibitors and visitors would see.
Ed: in terms of the number of exhibitors, how has the show in Perth been affected?
Simon: ATSA Independent Living Expos are the largest displays of assistive technology in each State. We received only three companies withdrawing for the Perth expo. In the past month we have received many new companies signing up, in fact the Perth show is 30% larger than the 2018 event.
Ed: And what about visitor registrations. How are they tracking, and do they meet your expectations?
Simon: When the show was postponed we had already more than 400 people registered to attend. We’ve been in communication with all these people and most have reconfirmed they will be attending. So our registration numbers are tracking well, but we know from past experience, around 50% of people who attend register on the day. So we need to keep the messages going strongly over the next two months.
We are expecting more than 1000 visitors to attend.
Ed: what plans are in place to ensure the expo is Covid Safe?
Simon: Each State and venue have different health requirements which makes planning challenging and these can change at a moments notice. As a professional event organiser Interpoint is part of the Exhibition & Event Association of Australia who have developed nationally recognised strategies for holding large events. For the event we have submitted a covid safe plan to the venue to ensure it meets the State Health Department’s requirements.
The expo will operate in a similar fashion to other large indoor venues such as theatres and shopping centres. There will be hand sanitisers, social distancing and QR codes scanning people as they arrive. QR codes have been used for several years at the ATSA shows as they provide a contactless registration system. The halls are large, and we will be within the indoor limit capacity.
Ed: What can visitors expect to see that is new at the show this year?
Simon: Firstly let me start with what’s not changed. The popular free coffee, free parking and free education is all available. Visitors will see a new and totally revamped education program. In particular we have introduced some longer clinical sessions at the request of occupational therapists and also a dedicated technology stream.
We are still collating information from exhibitors as to what they are displaying but as it is two years since the last Independent Living expo we are expecting a lot of new products to be displayed for the first time.
Ed: And final question Simon, what have you heard from the disability sector in general regarding the events?
Simon: Without doubt people are very keen to engage in face to face conversations. The AT industry is very tactile and what we have heard is that visitors and therapists want to see, touch, feel and discuss patient requirements. There is a pent-up excitement about the event; the vaccine roll out and borders reopening is giving everyone a sense of optimism. The events, though different, will be of huge benefit to allied health professionals, visitors, carers and suppliers.
ATSA Independent Living Expo will be held at Claremont Showgrounds on 25-26 May 2021. The expo opens daily at 10am and is free to attend.
For more details visit www.atsaindependentlivingexpo.com.au