Originally published by Trade Show Executive
This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. Memes and commentary have been gracing social media for months, fervently bidding farewell to the most challenging year the world has collectively experienced in a long time, perhaps ever. For the trade show industry, it is easily the most challenging year we have ever seen. Decisions have been difficult, emotions have run high and resilience has been acutely tested. Although we are by no means “done” with the pandemic or its repercussions, we are certainly in a position to take a step back, evaluate and appreciate what we have learned so far.
As this TSE issue hits the stands, IAEE is in the midst of its first virtual Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition. We have worked harder than ever to provide content relevant to what our industry needs in the midst of a crisis like the one we are dealing with, as well as how to reclaim our industry from “surviving” back to “thriving” mode. This process will continue into 2021 but I would like to highlight some of the most valuable lessons we have learned, because it is important to maintain focus where it can be most productive.
The number one lesson that 2020 has graced us with has been the ins and outs of successfully putting on a virtual trade show. The breakneck speed by which show organizers have learned entirely new ways of delivering the experiential marketplace only B2B events can offer – just, wow! And that’s really saying something because we are an adaptable group of people by nature of what we do. We are accustomed to things changing/not going as expected/needing to be reworked on the fly. If you see us break a sweat, then you know the challenge is formidable.
So, yes, we did break a sweat. But, we did not break. In fact, our industry went the completely opposite direction in that the challenges presented to us this past year have united an already tightknit community even more. The tighter the weave, the stronger the fabric and our industry has undoubtedly shown its strength in the coalitions formed across multiple industry organizations to advocate on behalf of exhibitions and events to U.S. lawmakers. The ongoing efforts for government support as we strive to safely reopen trade shows will continue in the coming year, and the fundamental steps taken in 2020 will pave the way for their success.
Closer to home, industry executives learned to dig deeper into the leadership and development of their teams. By normal standards, this is already an important strategic element, however the economic downturn we suffered brought with it an undeniable urgency. The decision to lay off and furlough team members is nothing short of heart wrenching for top executives; the task of reallocating resources and trying to predict the unpredictable gut wrenching. Teams have had to quickly adapt current and learn new skill sets, often pushing themselves well beyond their comfort zones to oversome unforeseeable obstacles. All while staying focused, positive and united in the common goal of keeping the industry moving forward.
Which is exactly what we have done. There is much further that we want to go, much further that we will go. I have no doubt that we will take what we have learned, overcome and accomplished this year and apply it to the coming year with great success. In the meantime, as you reflect on the lessons of 2020 and bid it farewell, hold steadfast to the certainty that Exhibitions Mean Business!
David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA
President & CEO