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As The Saws Turn: Crate Conversations

by Jim Obermeyer

If you’ve read this column more than several times in the past, you probably know that a favorite part of my job is being on the show floor. There are a lot of reasons I say that.

All of the work that all of our teams—those inside our company and those of our partners and suppliers—do in the months (and sometimes years) leading up to a show opening all comes together on the show floor. It is truly where the rubber meets the road, where the real work happens.

It is where all of the creative ideas come to fruition. It is where new materials and new methods get their first assessment. It is where the latest in experiential concepts are tested for the first time. And where all the new technology that is coming our way is launched.

It is where our clients see our work come to life, where they experience what we do for them in real time in real space, not in a virtual world. Where the face-to-face part of our business really becomes face-to-face.

All of that is part of why I continue to be energized when I work the floor and why I come back to the office more passionate about what we do as an industry.

But there is another part that is just as important to me. It’s the crate conversations.

Those impromptu discussions that take place when you run into an old friend or a trusted supplier partner on the floor. You’re both leaning on a crate in the aisle and just chatting. You get to catch up on all the latest industry news—the news that doesn’t necessarily make the headlines in the industry press.

You get to learn about what they are doing now that they’ve changed positions or changed companies. You get to hear about their kid’s latest accomplishments or their most recent adventures in life. And sometimes you get to just B.S. for a while…the best stuff is talked about on the show floor.

But to me, these conversations are just as important as all of the more “formal” reasons for being on the show floor. If you do this long enough you make friends all over the industry and all over the country. And where are you most likely to run into them? OK, well, maybe at the local watering hole. But also, on the show floor.

And it’s not just the meetings with old friends. It’s the chance to meet new people as well. To expand your base of contacts. To stay in tune with that’s going on in our industry. You never know what will come out of these conversations. New business opportunities. New business relationships. New relationships. New friendships. A new spouse.

Yes, I’ve actually connected several people and been a groomsman in two weddings where the parties met on the show floor. But that’s another story for another day.

Suffice it to say that I enjoy these crate conversations as much as anything that happens on the show floor. Getting connected and staying connected when we are actually face to face, and not just screen to screen.

See you on the show floor.

 Jim Obermeyer has been in the tradeshow industry 37 years, both as a corporate tradeshow manager and exhibit house owner. He is currently a vice president at Hamilton Exhibits and can be reached at

This story originally appeared in the July/August issue of Exhibit City News, p. 12. For original layout, visit

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