A year ago today, I was making final west coast travel plans to supervise set up of a client’s properties during the first week of March.
Two weeks later, I was informed the event cancelled due to concerns about spreading the newly discovered COVID virus. In addition to the exhibit floor, the focus of this annual show was education for public health department officials attending from all over the country.
Not too long after that, trade shows and other face-to-face marketing events started falling like oak leaves in the Fall. By the end of March, our warehouse was full to the brim with properties that either had returned early or prepped properties sitting idle with unused shipping labels attached.
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.
Crazy. Simply crazy times. Craziest time I have seen in our industry since Prairie opened our doors in June of 1994, or even earlier when I started in the trade show and event world in 1983.
Let me first say to anyone reading this, if you are affiliated with the trade show and event industries in any capacity, I hope you are healthy, staying safe and doing whatever it takes to keep your family and friends the same. The virus that shut the door on face-to-face marketing events in March continues to change the way we live, work, eat and play.
When Illinois started to quarantine on March 21, we all figured it would last just a month or two, cause a few delayed events and then be up and running again by Fall. Here we are in September and the only things up and running are online meetings and professional sports without spectators. I am tired of both.
“Sure. I’ll look into it,” I said.
Those five words took me on a long and involved journey I originally thought was going to be a short trip. Shelley and I volunteered to look into what it would take to fix up the tennis courts that are part of our homeowner’s association. I mean, how hard can that be?
I thought we could just go online, check out some local companies and get quotes on filling the cracks, putting on a new layer of asphalt, and painting whatever court lines were needed. That’s what they do in parking lots, right?
My lovely wife has been faithfully going to yoga classes a few times a week for several years. She swears it has helped with her balance, strengthened her core and reduced the stress and strain of daily living. She keeps telling me, I have to go too.
“Whatever you are doing for your core,” she said “ain’t working.” Ouch.
A few weeks ago, Shelley informed me she had a free pass, so I was going and that was that.
Sears is closing their last store located within the city of Chicago.
It is the one on the northwest side at the Six Corners area. That’s where Irving Park Road, Cicero and Milwaukee avenues intersect, creating a hub of retail and commercial activity that has anchored the northwest side neighborhood, known as Portage Park. The history of the name dates back to the French explorers. The explorers and their Native American guides would portage canoes across the area, linking the Chicago River on the east and the Des Plaines River to the west.
It is also where I grew up.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.”
— Henry Ford
The worlds of design, art and graphic production have all evolved very rapidly over the past 20 to 25 years. It has never been easier to create what you can visualize, then produce it at what seems like lightning speed.
Perhaps, though, we are losing the art of creating imagery using paint, pencil and paper.
For the Japanese culture, Shinrin-yoku, walking or staying in forests in order to promote health, is a major form of relaxation.
Studies have shown that practicing Shinrin-yoku can ease feelings of hostility or depression, and may even help decrease the risk of psychological stress-related diseases.
If you spend any time researching the planning and execution of a successful trade show program, you’ll discover no shortage of material on the subject. Publications like Exhibitor Magazine, Exhibit City News and Trade Show Executive are great sources, along with the EDPA. There are countless social media pages and blogs devoted to industry best practices.
Much of what I find seems to be information that’s recycled and republished. Even so, most is good, sound advice based on statistical evidence and experience. Many of these sources have been useful in putting together some of my writing.
“Excuse me. Do you work here?”
“Me?” I pointed to myself. I had to juggle the 12-pack of soda and jar of peanut butter I was holding. My shopping trips involve very basic needs.
“Do you know where the Saran Wrap is?”
I checked to see if I was wearing a blue polo shirt with a store logo and a name tag. Nope.
“I don’t work here, but I’m sure we can find it together,” I said.
In January, I will be celebrating 34 years of being involved in the trade show industry. Yep, in January of 1983, I was introduced to the Nomadic Instand. The Instand, according to Exhibitor Magazine was one of the “10 Ideas That Changed the Trade Show Industry”.
If I would’ve known 34 years later I would still be involved with that same product, along with a library of different types of useful tools and services, I would’ve committed myself, right then and there.
There never will be a shortage of advice, paid or free, when it comes to managing a successful trade show program. Go ahead, Google it or go to your choice of exhibit industry social media groups.
They are all there: ship to advance warehouse, take advantage of discount deadlines for ordering show services and audio visual, get the better carpet padding, bring extra extension cords, wear comfortable shoes, blah, blah, blah, and on and on.
A few months ago, I did something that I had been meaning to do for years. I joined a local Toastmasters club.
Toastmasters is an international organization with local clubs, where members give speeches that are in turn evaluated and critiqued by their fellow members. It’s been around since the 1920s. Some of the more famous Toastmasters have included actor and comedian Tim Allen, former Boston Celtics player and coach K.C. Jones and the venerable Dr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy. There have also been many noted politicians and business leaders, including the founder of Mrs. Field’s Cookies. Sweet!
I recently watched the 2011 movie “My Week with Marilyn”. The movie is about a young intern on a movie set in England. Marilyn Monroe is one of the actors and the intern is assigned to keep Marilyn company and get her to the set on time.
Marilyn is difficult to work with. All the people affiliated with the production get so frustrated with Marilyn’s erratic and unprofessional behavior that they begin to do anything necessary to get her to show up, say her lines correctly and get the film produced.
Dear Marketing Managers, Vice Presidents, CFOs and anyone associated with hiring personnel to manage trade shows and marketing events,
I realize the importance of trade shows varies from company to company and organization to organization. For some, it is the lifeblood of their marketing program and the way they either gather prospects or spend quality time with existing customers. For others, it seems just to be a necessary evil where they “have to show up because everyone else does” or a last minute decision as to whether it is in the budget or not.