The Exhibit Designer Producers Association’s annual ACCESS Conference and Showcase wrapped up its week-long event in December 2013 with a final-night happy hour on the beach at the Marco Island Marriott Resort and Spa. It was a casual, relaxed and laid back evening, watching the sun set over the Gulf, snacking on great food and drink.
It was also the antithesis of what the rest of the week was like – jammed full of information-packed seminars, excellent keynote speakers, a showcase full of suppliers, and a silent auction and gala that topped many before it. Suffice it to say there was not a lot of down time. And that was a good thing.
Keynote speakers addressed current topics, such as “Inside the Evolution: The psychology of change,” “Break Points: Where businesses get stuck, and how to get them unstuck,” and “The Exhibitor Perspective: 2014 and Beyond.” All of them gave the audience cause to stop and examine their current business situations and evaluate the future.
Seminars throughout the event followed two tracks; a Down to Business track and an EVOLVE track. The business track tackled issues such as the economic state of the industry, taxes, intellectual property, sales pipelines and social media.
The EVOLVE track took a look at new innovative materials, partnering with show management, creating off-the-floor experiences and leveraging partnerships with portable/modular manufacturers.
A couple of important industry issues were addressed in two sessions. The first session, “EDPA’s Zero-Waste ‘Design & Build’ Challenge,” proposed a direct challenge to EDPA members, and in cooperation with the Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC), unveiled guidelines and specific criteria for a new zero waste design/build challenge.
In the second session “The EDPA RFP Certification Project,” details for the new industry certification were announced. Research conducted in 2012 proved there was unanimous enthusiasm for an EDPA “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” that would pre-screen vendors on the basis of business integrity and operational practices and capabilities. The certification process will start in early 2014.
While there were lots of opportunities for session learning, it wasn’t all about educational sessions. The supplier showcase gave attendees a chance to see what was new from key industry suppliers, speed networking sessions allowed suppliers to do a quick pitch to many individuals in a short period of time and breakfast roundtables provided information on a variety of important topics.
Certainly one of the highlights of the week is the Not-So-Silent Auction & President’s Gala. Everyone comes together for an evening of awards, recognition and giving back. The auction benefits the EDPA Foundation, whose mission is to support industry families through scholarships and financial support in times of need. This year over $23,000 was raised for the foundation.
This year’s major awards went to Dana Esposito for Designer of the Year, Derek Gentile for the Ambassador Award and Paul Willet for the Hazel Hays Award. The EDPA Midwest Chapter took honors for the Chapter of the Year. Finally, Eddie Award winners were Steelhead Productions for Printed Matter, Derse for Large Tradeshows and Skyline for Online Program.
One of my favorite parts of the conference is actually the last session on the last day: The EDPA Town Hall Meeting. During this session, the entire Executive Board leads a conversation about where the association is going, new initiatives coming on line, and then opens the floor for questions and commentary.
With all of this activity (and more) going on, it’s easy to forget about perhaps the real reason I come to this event: Coming here reminds me that I am part of something bigger than what is happening inside the walls of my company.
Someone once said that we are a family. We know each other’s children without having ever met them. We know each other’s trials and tribulations without being there when they happen. We coach and encourage each other, even though we are competitors. We are all very fortunate to have two families – our own ‘blood family’ and our industry family.
If you haven’t been to an EDPA ACCESS, make plans now to come to the 2014 conference, Dec. 3-5, Innisbrook Golf & Spa Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla. See you there.
Jim Obermeyer has been in the tradeshow industry over 30 years, both as a corporate trade show manager and exhibit house executive. He is a partner in the trade show and event marketing firm Reveal. He can be reached at email@example.com.