Emerald kicks off 2021, successfully trades first in-person event of the year, Surf Expo Winter

Event served customer needs, providing a secure, safety-first platform for successful in-person business

NEW YORK, NY (February 8, 2021) Emerald, owner of Surf Expo, celebrated another key milestone for the organization and expositions industry as a whole. Surf Expo, the largest and longest running watersports and beach lifestyle marketplace, successfully staged its winter event January 6-8, 2021 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

“Trading IGES last November in Pigeon Forge, TN, provided us the framework and key learnings on how to deliver a successful, safety-first, secure and productive in-person event. I am extremely proud of our team, partners and the Orange County Convention Center, for effectively working together to achieve our common goal of ensuring the health and safety of everyone while onsite at Surf Expo,” said Lori Silva, EVP of Emerald’s Retail Group.

While the show’s overall size was less than half the size of the 2020 edition due to the impact of COVID-19 and national and international travel restrictions, buyer-to-exhibitor ratios increased by 23%. This helped drive significant improvements in overall exhibitor satisfaction, with exhibitor net promoter scores increasing by 63% compared to the 2020 event.

Exhibitors echoed the sentiment. Tracy Wilson, National Sales Manager for AHEAD, said “Surf Expo was a very good experience for our company.  We went in with lower-than-normal expectations as far as attendance and order writing due to the pandemic, and by the end of the show we left with the opposite!  Surf Expo did a very good producing an environment where everyone felt safe.  I hope other shows use Surf Expo as an example for staging a safe, in-person event.”

Building off the momentum of health and safety protocols and guidelines that were strictly implemented at IGES in November 2020, Emerald developed a Surf Expo-specific health and safety plan that included safety precautions for exhibitors, attendees and staff.  The plan aligned with Emerald’s Preparedness, Prevention & Response Plan and was further tailored to adhere to Orange County’s and the Orange County Convention Center’s (OCCC) health and safety requirements.

“Events at the Orange County Convention Center are implementing multiple health and safety measures to ensure attendees, exhibitors and employees are safe.  As a result, we are one of the only convention centers nationwide that is hosting large-scale conventions – safely and without incident.  In January, Surf Expo hosted thousands of attendees in our West Building, and I experienced firsthand how proper social distancing through signage, floor stickers and safety protocols were implemented to create a safe and controlled gathering,” said OCCC Executive Director, Mark Tester.

Surf Expo’s stringent health and safety measures included temperature screenings, the required use of face masks at all times, a larger registration area footprint, the addition of safety concierges, wider aisles with directional signage, floor stickers, hand sanitizing stations, and enhanced cleaning measures. Moreover, the show’s team worked with Visit Orlando and the OCCC to create a health and safety video for the show’s website to inform, remind and ensure that all exhibitors and attendees complied with health and safety protocols.

Emerald, in strategic alliance with general contractor and partner, Shepard, helped set a new standard on how face-to-face business-to-business events could be safely produced, starting with IGES and Surf Expo, with plans to support and share this health and safety model for other organizers to implement at future events.

“We are committed to working with client partners, like Emerald, to ensure we are not only at the forefront of adapting the new standards for health and safety necessary to reopen our in-person events, but that we are sharing our knowledge and key learnings with our partners to help accelerate the recovery of our industry,” said Steve Basch, CEO, Shepard.

For more information, please visit the event websites;

Surf Expo at and International Gift Expo of the Smokies at


About Emerald

Emerald is a leader in building dynamic, market-driven business-to-

business platforms that integrate live events with a broad array of industry insights, digital tools, and data-focused solutions to create uniquely rich experiences. As true partners, we at Emerald strive to build our customers’ businesses by creating opportunities that inspire, amaze, and deliver breakthrough results. With over 140 events each year, our teams are creators and connectors who are thoroughly immersed in the industries we serve and committed to supporting the communities in which we operate. For more information, please visit

About Shepard

Shepard is a full-service event production company serving exhibitions, events, and exhibits. We work with events to create meaningful experiences that connect the right audiences and

bring bold visions to life. With teams that specialize in everything from strategy, design and audio-visual technology to production and entertainment, we ensure every event goes beyond the expected. For more information, please visit Shepard

Emerald Media Contact:

Beth Cowperthwaite, VP, Communications, (203) 606-6243

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