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ELITeXPO’s Chuck Michel on COVID-19’s Effects

by Calanit Atia

No one saw COVID-19 coming; no one expected the pandemic to last more than three months. The reality is that COVID-19 is going to continue through the first quarter of 2021, as evidenced by significant tradeshows going digital.

The economic loss is hard to comprehend. Our convention, tradeshow and tourism industry have suffered losses that will take years to recover. Jobs have been lost, companies have closed or downsized extensively, and there is still no answer when the industry will rebound and people will go back to work.

Chuck MichelChuck Michel (pictured right), vice president of tradeshow services for ELITeXPO, shared with Exhibit City News how the pandemic has affected his company and him personally.

CM: Before COVID hit and the world was turned upside down, virtual events could never compete with face-to-face physical marketing. It paled in comparison to real-time live engagement because, by in large, we are social creatures, and virtual experiences just didn’t offer that experience.

Fast forward to post-COVID, and most will agree (albeit some reluctantly) that the virtual experience now has a strong foothold in our industry. And like it or not, it isn’t going anywhere in the short term, and will be around for long term planning and implementation. I truly believe that the virtual booth will coexist with the physical booth, with one actually complimenting the other. I have come to embrace the reality that virtual meetings are now a part of the marketing. I have taken a deep dive into educating myself on the variety of platforms and approaches available. Virtual platforms are not new; however, as I stated earlier, it was never widely accepted as an alternative to face-to-face, in my opinion.

I have done what I can to educate myself on the various virtual platforms, and in turn, have been making a solid effort in both educating our clients and recommending solutions. Let’s face it; our clients are as worried as the rest of us regarding navigating their way around COVID concerning best marketing practices. While virtual for some was something that they equated to in-booth demo experiences or games their kids played for entertainment, virtual has now become front and center as clients try to figure out their next step in marketing and branding within this new virtual event space. There are some great applications out there, and then there is somewhat I would call below-par applications. So, in that regard, it is my job to educate and guide.

As for PPE, we have wasted no time connecting with our suppliers to offer our clients PPE solutions such as durable hand sanitizing stations, attractive office dividers with branding options, face shields, and more.

On a personal level, I am not driving nearly as much as I typically would during the summer. That, coupled with the fact that I now do almost all my local travel and errands on my Vespa GTS 300, has saved us money with lower fuel cost.

As for entertainment, like most people, my wife and I are not going out much and remain more homebound. So instead of heading out for a movie or dinner, we have tested the limits of our DVR and are enjoying a variety of great British series we have found on the BBC. That, coupled with cooking together more, has saved money and given us some quality time to connect more than our time typically allotted. It’s really a win-win on this front. We cook all the time now. Yes, we miss going out. However, we get to spend more time together, and hey, the food isn’t bad!

I sing and play guitar in a rock band, and although all of our gigs have been canceled for 2020, we still all connect via Garage Band. We each create and lay down our own instrument tracks, then share the files and rehearse virtually. Not really a money saver, realistically a revenue loss, but at least it keeps us connected and allows us to still make music together.

Our tradeshow community is a community, and we are keeping each other strong. As always, we will prevail as we had done in the past. There will be some casualties, as in all wars, but we will find our way back to the show floor in the end.

Calanit Atia is the founder and president of A to Z Events, Las Vegas DMC, speaker, the Negotiator Expert, Air Force veteran, award-winning event planner and a member of the 2020 MPI Women’s Advisory Board. Contact her at or (702) 212-2500.

This story originally appeared in the Sept./Oct. issue of Exhibit City News, p. 18. For original layout, visit

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