I was on a Zoom conference the other day where one of the attendees (an exhibit house employee) remarked that there was so much dust on the machines in their shop they couldn’t see how any more could possibly pile up.
A chilling realization for many in our industry that trade shows and face-to-face meetings remain, for the most part, at a grinding halt. By all indications, with a very few exceptions involving business-to-consumer or private events, the United States will not see events coming back until at least Q1, 2021. A few shows have already pushed back dates to July and August.
Simply put, one cannot sugarcoat anything about the physical and economic impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic to anyone or any organization in the hospitality, meeting and travel industries. Doing what you can to hold on until there is an effective treatment or vaccine, is of the highest priority. From what we have seen, that has taken many forms.
Traditional indoor restaurants have moved to add outdoor seating and curbside pickup, and hotels have started to rent rooms for daytime use as an option for working from home. Some aren’t so fortunate to have the capital or reserves for an extended downturn like this.
During the beginning of all this, we finally had the time to sort through our office and warehouse for items that were unused or obsolete. Then in August and September came the deep dive.
It actually has become more of an “archeological dig”. We uncovered design awards from the 1990s and a whole cache of blank, unburned CD-ROM discs. There were publications and magazines, too. One of my favorite finds was a printed copy of the Windy City News, dated July 2004.
Exhibit City News, as a publication, goes back to 1993. What started as a bi-weekly publication for Chicago’s trade show workers is now a nationally distributed, monthly magazine with a far-reaching, online presence.
The slightly yellowed copy we unearthed was the TS2 edition (remember TSEA and TS2, the trade show about trade shows?), and featured an article on McCormick Place and Chicago, and how it was a great convention city. There were sections on what to buy and where to eat. The author of the article wrote “Chicago is to music as New Orleans is to food”.
She concluded the article by writing, “The facilities and accommodations are world-class, the people are hard-working and friendly, and the food is as varied as an around the world trip.”
The article mentions that on May 24, 2004, there was a groundbreaking of the new West Building, increasing exhibit space to over 2.6 million square feet, making it the largest combined convention center in the United States. At the time, McCormick Place was the only convention facility in the country with permanent Internet 2 capabilities for “instantaneous transfer of multiple, large digital files”. So cool.
After reading the edition cover to cover, I got goose bumps. All so positive, so upbeat. It just reaffirmed what I loved about our industry at the time. But here it is November, and we can only look to the next few months and start planning for 2021.
The last thing I uncovered was a picture taken at the 2005 TS2 show gala. I was quite a bit younger, and surrounded by some industry cohorts, “dressed to the nines” in suits, ties and long dresses. I’m fortunate to still be in touch with some of this fine group today. Goose bumps again. I miss those times and simply want them back again.
I’m just tired of all the dust, and wary of what I might find next in my warehouse archeological dig.