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It’s autumn, and we’re in the thick of another very busy tradeshow season. For me, I am on the road for close to a month at the Farm Progress Show, followed immediately by Husker Harvest Days, two very large outdoor events. Shortly after that I roll into the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention, where we have three very large exhibits. Let’s just say I don’t see home much between mid-August and late October.

But this year I added another trip to the list – this one for fun. Last year at the annual EDPA Access Convention’s Silent Auction I bid on a package presented by Heilmaier Messe Design, a tradeshow firm based in Munich, Germany. The package included a one-liter stein, a $75.00 gift card for the Hofbrauhaus in Las Vegas and admission to Heilmaier’s private seating in the Augustiner tent at Oktoberfest in Munich.

I really just wanted the stein; the gift card was a bonus and the trip to Munich was the furthest thing from my mind until I talked with a very good friend who spent years in Germany and survived many an Oktoberfest. He insisted we go, as in all of us – him, his wife, my wife and myself. And so after months of back and forth, we made a 10-day trek to Munich and southern Bavaria.

The afternoon with the Heilmaier team in the Augustiner tent at Oktoberfest was the highlight of the trip. Wonderful hosts, owners Thorsten and Petra, and their entire staff made us feel like part of their team. We talked business only briefly, and spent most of the time trading stories and learning about each other.

Cruising the EDPA Silent Auction last December, considering the many cool items to bid on, I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be sitting with a team of German tradeshow folks in a beer tent at Oktoberfest in Munich 10 months later. And that’s only one story from the silent auction.

Two years ago I was bidding on a St. Louis Cardinals baseball jersey for my daughter. One other bidder kept bumping up the bid. All evening long we went back and forth. Finally, at the end of the bidding, I put in one final bid, and won. I later learned that I was bidding against Dave Walens, EDPA Foundation Chairman. He had planned to buy it as a gift for me. I spent more than I had planned and chalked it up to all going to a good cause.

The EDPA Silent Auction is held every year during the Access Conference & Showcase. The purpose of the auction is to raise money for the EDPA Foundation. All proceeds from the auction are used to provide financial support when tragedy strikes the family of industry members and towards providing scholarships to industry students for higher education.

Items for the auction are donated by members of our industry, and attendees at the conference then participate in the auction during the president’s gala on the second evening. That’s the fun part…checking out all the cool stuff to bid on, selecting a few things to go after, and stalking other bidders to make sure you prevail on at least one of the items you want. And you’re doing it all with a bunch of industry friends.

This year’s Access is scheduled Dec. 4-6 at Marco Island Resort & Spa in Marco Island, Fla. Check out access.edpa.com for details on attending. But perhaps equally as important, consider donating items for the auction. Just about anything is acceptable. I’ve seen custom-made guitars, handmade jewelry, all sorts of electronics, craft beers, wine, lots of signed sports memorabilia. There are also gift certificates for restaurants, shops, resorts, subscriptions and Exhibitor Show attendance.

The bottom line is this: Whether you’re donating an item or bidding on an item – or both, you’re supporting the foundation that supports the people of our industry. And who knows, you may end up in some foreign country sharing a beer with new friends. What could be better than that?

See you on the show floor.

Jim Obermeyer has been in the tradeshow industry 30 years, both as a corporate tradeshow manager and exhibit house executive. He is a partner in the tradeshow and event marketing firm Reveal. He can be reached at jobermeyer@revealexhibits.com.

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