by Jim Obermeyer
I recently read an article in a conservation magazine about woodland prescribed burns. These are intentionally set and managed fires in a deep forest or woodland. The fire helps manage weeds and undesirable growth, helps reduce the risk of wildfires, restores nutrients to the soil and leads to more desirable natural plant growth. That all sounds good.
However, when you are watching the woodland burn happen, it seems so destructive. Flames creep across the forest floor, sometimes catching downed logs that blaze hot and sound like a roaring storm. The earth is scorched, scars are left at the base of large trees. It all seems lost for a time. Not too much different than what our world may have seemed like recently.
But then the restoration begins. Slowly the forest begins to grow again. This time with healthy, natural plant life. Birds and small animals return, this time without the added burden of invasive shrubs and vines. Soon the forest is teeming with life again.
By the time you read this—at least a month or more after I’ve written it—I am hopeful that our restoration has begun full force. That our industry has begun to show signs of life, that our people have begun returning to the work they are so passionate about. Surely, though, fear and uncertainty have cast long shadows in recent months, and there are scars left behind.
Many of us will come out of this experience in a vastly different place—both emotionally and professionally. But what if this is the time to evaluate your priorities, your passions, what drives and motivates you? Perhaps this is the opportunity to make changes you have been thinking about for a long time but never had the time to explore? Sometimes, in the face of seeming disaster, there is significant opportunity.
How we do come out of it will say a lot about who we are and where we will go from here. Will we join together to survive and grow collectively? Will we be hurtful or helpful? Will we be selfish or selfless?
I certainly have to be concerned for my own situation and my own family and friends, but I am also concerned for the people in my company, and in the partner companies that I work with in this industry. And I am also concerned for the industry as a whole. It will require the combined efforts of all of us to overcome this.
Like many of you, I am tired of over-used words and phrases: “pivot,” “new normal,” “these times” and “stay safe.” I don’t need to hear them again! I just want to get back to work and get back to seeing all my industry friends and get back to walking the show floor. But the reality for us in this industry is that it will, in fact, be different…at least for the near future.
Because of that, and in spite of that, I strongly believe that how we treat each other, how we re-engage and how we work together for the benefit of our companies and our industry will determine our success going forward.
We will come through these dark times. And yes, there will be scars. But may they remind us to care less about the unimportant things and more about those that matter—faith, family, friends, coworkers, industry, community. Restoration will come.
See you on the show floor—soon, I hope.
Jim Obermeyer has been in the tradeshow industry 38 years, both as a corporate tradeshow manager and exhibit house owner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in the July/August issue of Exhibit City News, p. 12. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_july-august_2020