by H. K. Wilson
As the future of our world and industry remain uncertain amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Experiential Designers and Producers Association (EDPA) is rallying professionals across the globe. Established in 1954, EDPA has provided leadership and advocacy through good times and bad, giving its members an unbroken sense of strength and connectedness.
When Amy Sondrup became EDPA’s 53rd president in 2019, she had no idea that she would be leading the organization in crisis conditions. She has stepped boldly into her role as a wartime president, and she explains how EDPA is supporting its members and the industry at large during these challenging times.
ECN: Why is EDPA membership an important tool amid the current industry crisis?
Amy Sondrup (pictured left): “EDPA membership is so important during the current industry crisis because our association creates a communication network for our members. Everyone is saying, ‘We’re in this together,’ but this is especially true of our industry. We are finding that it is extremely critical for us to support all our members across industry segments—from exhibit builders and contractors, to caterers and furniture rental companies. Countries around the globe are banning large gatherings, which has a severe impact on our core business. In addition to keeping our members up to date, EDPA is working to provide access to critical information during this difficult time.”
ECN: What are you doing as an organization to provide leadership, hope and/or resources to industry professionals?
AS: “As EDPA president, I am in continuous communication with Dasher Lowe, our executive director, our board of directors, our executive committee and our membership to keep all the concerns of our industry front and center. We are proactive in seeking relief and have been working with the US Travel Association, IAEE and other industry leaders to ensure that the needs of the travel and hospitality industries—including the meetings and events segment—are represented during this critical time, particularly through the CARES Act, which includes immediate provisions to help those businesses affected by COVID-19.”
ECN: Do you have a message for people who are experiencing uncertainty about the future?
AS: “One thing that has become clear during this time when most of us are working from home and sheltering in place is that people crave connection with others. This experience convinces us that nothing will ever replace face-to-face engagement.”
For the rest of this EDPA Chapter Roundup story, please visit www.ExhibitCityNews.com and search for “EDPA.”
Upper Midwest Chapter
Strong Leadership at the Heart of EDPA’s Success
Strong leaders abound within EDPA, among them, Jennifer Hermanson (pictured left), who has dedicated her career to the tradeshow industry. She began as a part-time receptionist at Heritage Exhibits, now CenterPoint Marketing, and worked her way up through the company. More than 20 years later, she is a senior account manager at CenterPoint and president of EDPA’s Upper Midwest Chapter. She says the thing she loves most about the industry is the opportunity to work with a diverse portfolio of clients across different industries. “Also, unlike some areas of marketing, there is always an open and a close to a tradeshow which provides instant gratification.” She describes EDPA as “a great way in which to exchange ideas with other tradeshow/event professionals and build your network.”
Looking forward to better times, the chapter is asking members to save the date of Monday, August 3, when it will host its 51st Annual UMEDPA Golf Tournament at Eagle Valley Golf Course in Woodbury, Minn.
Las Vegas Chapter
Keeping the Lights Bright in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Chapter President and National Sales Manager at Classic Exhibits, Jen LaBruzza (pictured right), infuses her chapter with light and positivity in this dark time. She applauds EDPA for supporting the people and companies affected by the near complete shutdown of the industry and bringing the devastation brought on by COVID-19 to the forefront of our government leaders. “The EDPA has been crucial to getting consistent and timely information not only to member companies but to the experiential industry as a whole,” she says. “The connections forged through membership in the EDPA will undoubtedly provide those folks affected by layoffs and furloughs with a network to lean on and draw from when the time comes to get everyone back to work.”
LaBruzza has ample strategies to share about keeping your spirits up during layoffs. “I’m all about any opportunity for connection we can foster during this time of stay home,” she says. “As an educator, I’m encouraged by the many opportunities I’ve seen within our industry for online learning, webinars and virtual meet-ups. If you haven’t already, check out the LinkedIn Learning page for ideas and suggestions within their platform.”
She also suggests that everyone keep moving, whether it’s getting out and walking or doing an at-home workout on social media. “This will work to keep up your show-site activity level and also allow some good time for your brain to process the anxiety that many of us are undoubtedly feeling. Yoga is a go-to for me. Here is a link to seven poses that make up a version of sun salutation that helps me work through some of my feelings on the mat: https://blog.fitbit.com/7-sunny-yoga-poses-for-dark-days/.”
If you need a dose of sunshine, call LaBruzza. “I’m looking forward to connecting with everyone in person again soon. Until then, please feel free to reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay strong and BE WELL everyone!”
Keeping Members Informed and Connected
EDPA Midwest Chapter President Jackie Hake (pictured left) wants everyone to know that this is the most important time to be a member of EDPA. “The leadership at the national level have been keeping us updated on their initiatives with the U.S. Travel Association and what they are doing to represent us and bring relief to our industry,” she says. “On a local level, many of our members are sharing their own stories and plans for moving forward in an uncertain future. This helps us to get on the same page and help each other when possible.”
As a leader, Hake says she is busy ensuring that the information her chapter is providing is accurate. “Because of all the unknowns surrounding this virus and our timeline, I have been helping to spread the national EDPA message both on social media and in our email blasts to our members. I also pick up my phone and respond to the emails of our members who are seeking information or just wanting to catch up. I prefer to correspond with our membership one on one since everyone’s situation is unique.”
Here is Hake’s advice for maintaining a positive outlook: “I think one of the best things you can do if you have gotten laid off work during this time is to volunteer with your local EDPA chapter or other similar organizations in your area. This will help you to stay productive and connected and when this finally passes, you may have additional experience and a new network. Our industry will come back and it will flourish again. Get up, get dressed, pick up the phone and connect!”
On Tuesday, April 14, the chapter supported Global Meetings Industry Day Goes Virtual, an event that drew more than 12,500 virtual attendees from Canada, USA, Mexico, India, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Philippines, Colombia, Singapore, Kenya, Portugal, Croatia, Malaysia, Brazil, India, Slovakia, Portugal, Costa Rica, and many more countries. This conference highlighted the positivity, resiliency and tenacity of the people who make up the meetings industry worldwide, with panelists from government, Business Events Canada, hotels, convention centers and the planning community who discussed the impact of COVID-19 and where the industry will go from here. The webcast was recorded and is available at: https://gmidgoesvirtual.com/whats-next%3F.
EDPA Midwest has partnered with the Product Innovation Research Lab at University of Illinois for the Spring Semester to build awareness for the industry. They submitted a fictional RFP for an electric car company exhibiting at the LA Auto Show for the students to use. They also brought the students to the Chicago Auto Show (pictured right) so they could experience it with a team of professionals who educated them on current trends and necessary logistics in exhibit designing and building. The students’ final presentations will be on May 12 via Zoom. Stay tuned for more details on the outcome.
Northern California Chapter
Helping Members Use Downtime Productively
Naveen Koneru (pictured left with NorCal board), Northern California chapter president, expressed his gratitude for EDPA’s executive committee and its tireless efforts to ensure that the industry receives government support. In like manner, he says that his local board is working hard to bring members comfort and hope during uncertain times. “We are organizing a social media training workshop and focusing on creating a positive vibe in the community,” says Koneru. April’s virtual social media training, designed to help members make productive use of time as they are sheltering in, is followed by an economic forecast briefing in May, with a view to identifying positive strategies for the post-COVID-19 environment.
Maintaining a Sense of Community
According to EDPA Southeast Chapter President Sandra Braun (pictured right), current challenges pose an opportunity to return to her chapter’s original vision. She says, “To support this vision, we are supporting a few tactics, such as, Zoom happy hours with the board. First of all, it is so nice to ‘see’ everyone and talk about topics ranging from how you are surviving staying at home to what you are doing to connect with customers.”
She and her board are also making personal calls to check in with members. “My goal is to personally reach every member in our chapter by the end of the month. The board is working to divide and conquer this initiative so that we reach all members. Additionally, I’m researching free online training, for example, Ted talks, to recommend to members to expand skills while they have some downtime.”
Braun emphasizes the importance of self-care at this time and says that physical activity is keeping her sane. “Doing online yoga classes, running outside (the weather has been gorgeous), taking my dogs on walks, and recently, audio books! From a work perspective, I have been working on updating LinkedIn, writing account plans, looking at different industries and areas for future opportunities.”
Braun says EDPA membership is “an opportunity for us all to stick together and support each other as much as possible in an ever-changing time. The resources, information and support are beyond valuable as we navigate through this uncertain time.”
EDPA Northeast Meets Via Zoom
After EDPA Northeast Chapter’s first two events for 2020 were postponed (ExhibitorLive Cocktail Kickoff and Rally at the Alley), President Marisa Pacheco (pictured left) says her team is still hoping to “reschedule the events and/or reinvent them to match the culture after this is all over.” The chapter is going forward with plans to host its annual golf tournament, “The Classic,” in September.
Undaunted by recent setbacks, the chapter also hosted a Zoom meeting designed to bring everyone together to catch up on current events, both industry and personal. EDPA Executive Director Dasher Lowe joined in. “We will definitely be hosting another in the future,” Pacheco says.
Great Lakes Chapter
Tradeshows Integral to Collective Healing Following COVID-19
When asked why he thinks EDPA membership is so important at this time, Great Lakes Chapter President Kevin Sacharski (pictured right) explains, “Simply put, our industry is built upon large groups of people sharing experiences. COVID-19 and social distancing have impacted all of us, but EDPA has provided the voice to articulate our issues to a grander audience. I believe that shows and events will be an integral part of the collective healing process, and organizations like EDPA are providing the blueprint to maximize our involvement.”
His suggestions for remaining positive? “As simple as it sounds, take the time to touch base with team members. These uncertain times have created different anxieties for everybody, so being intentional about interacting and providing support has been very impactful.”
Virtual Happy Hours Unite Texas Members
Matthew Little (pictured left) is president of the fledgling EDPA chapter in Texas. He says that while current conditions make it difficult to expand membership, he and his board are staking their place in their community with a presence on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EDPATexas/. The chapter can also be reached at email@example.com and will soon have a LinkedIn page and website.
Efforts to remain connected are taking a more personal form, as well. “During these troubling times, our board has decided that it is important to stay connected with each other. We are now having weekly Google Meets Happy Hours, allowing us to interact with each other to stay connected on the current happenings in the industry and our own lives. At our first Happy Hour, we discussed doing good works in each of our local communities. Simple things, like possibly baking cookies for people on the front lines of this pandemic. Doing a little something to help our neighbors and to give us a sense of community is what we all need at this time.”
“EDPA Texas would like to say, ‘Stay Strong and Stay Safe!’. We are here if you need us and will be reaching out to our community as we grow our chapter.”
Staying Informed is a Key Business Strategy
On March 4, EDPA SoCal Chapter held a meeting at the Image Options’ state-of-the-art facility in the city of Foothill Ranch. After a warm welcome by Chapter President Claire Wyckaert (pictured left) and Image Options Principal & Co-Founder Brian Hite, keynote speaker Cathy Breden, CEO of International Association of Exhibitions and Events and Center for Exhibition Industry Research, led a state of the industry presentation and discussion about COVID-19’s impact on meetings worldwide. She spoke to a packed house, as just the night before, show organizers announced the first pandemic-related cancellation at the Anaheim Convention Center: Natural Products Expo West. The meeting was an opportunity for alarmed attendees to share business strategies and camaraderie as the enormity of COVID-19’s significance was becoming apparent.
Vince Battaglia, founder of The Tradeshow Calendar and president emeritus of EDPA SoCal, demonstrated how this online directory gives industry professionals the ability to track accurate event dates and links to official event websites. “As the crisis continues, this tool will be critical to helping the industry get back to work,” he says. “We are the most reliable information source in the industry, and we are committed to providing corporate exhibitors and potential tradeshow attendees with a comprehensive listing of new and rescheduled exhibiting opportunities.”
Following the meeting, EDPA SoCal Vice President Antonia Nuzzolo said this about the enduring value of EDPA membership: “Events like our state of the industry lecture and discussion prove the worth of EDPA membership even in the time of a pandemic. Attendees voiced current and potential business problems due to COVID-19 and were met with creative ideas for their mitigation from peers. Instead of trying five different ways to solve the problem and using valuable time and resources in the process themselves, they heard ten solutions and wide perspectives illuminating their pros and cons.”
A portion of this story originally appeared in the May/June issue of Exhibit City News, p. 42. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_may-june_2020