July 14, 2024 12:20 PM
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As_The_Saws_Turn Jim Obermeyer
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EDPA: Leading Our Industry Into the Future

by Jim Obermeyer


Read in our Q4 Print Issue HERE .


I started going to EDPA events in 2006, five years after starting my company. I was feeling isolated as a company owner and was literally just looking for someone I could talk with about the issues I was dealing with in an ownership role. I had tried our local ad clubs and marketing associations, but they didnt get this industry, and I wasnt comfortable talking with my local competitors.


What I found in EDPA was a group of people who were very passionate about this industry, its clients, and its people.  Within a very short timeframe, I met other owners and senior leaders that were technically competitors, but they were also compadres. We talked about issues that we as company owners faced, and we as an industry had to deal with.


When I had clients that wanted to do shows in Europe and in Canada, I turned to my fellow EDPA members for assistance. I knew these people; I trusted them with my clients, and they performed wonderfully. When the great recession hit in 2008-2010, we all worked together to help each other out and do our best to make sure we all survived.


As we came out of that time and the industry grew back, I became involved in the boards of directors for the foundation and the association. It just felt like it was the right thing to domy company and I had gained so much from our membership and involvement thatthis was the natural next step give back my time to this organization.


Over the last 17 years, I have watched this association evolve as our industry has changedwith the times. I have been fortunate to meet and work with some very smart and very passionate people that have passed through this organization. True leaders in this industryand too many to name in this small space.


When the pandemic hit in 2020 and our industry came to a screeching halt, I saw people in this association step up to tackle major issues. Owners of companies that were all but shut down committed huge amounts of time and effort to try to save this industry. And what has grown out of that time is what I believe is one of the strongest and most committed boards of directors and executive committee that I have ever seen in this industry.


We are talking about an industry association that has garnered praise from other associations in our industry for the passion, commitment and efforts put forth to build our industry back. Just look at some of this work:


Advocacy: What started as a drive to reach our US government representatives and expose them to this industrys dire need of help has grown to include advocating for our industry on a local government level, but also advocating and exposing our industry toother associations, universities, tech schools and organizations like the American School Counselors Association.


And then there is advocating for the exhibitor our clients. With the demise of the Trade Show Exhibitors Association years ago, there has been no formal organization that looks after the needs of the exhibitor. With the recent establishment of The Exhibitor Advocate, and the support they are getting from EDPA members, hopefully that is changing.


Future Workforce/Future Leaders: Every industry in this economy has been hit with workforce shortages, and for an industry that has been relatively unknown, it can be even more difficult to find skilled workers. Our associations efforts with this on both a national and local level are starting to bring people from high schools, universities and other industries to the table.


The other piece of this is the recognition of future leaders those in this industry that have the potential to lead us into the future. Developing these leaders is critical to our industrys continued success.


Education: New workers and new employees in this industry mean new ways of teaching our people what this industry is all about and how it works.  Efforts to partner with other industry organizations to expose them to what we do and to train our current teams requires a whole new approachour teams arent made up of people that have been in this industry their entire careers anymore.


Sustainability: This issue is not going away. More and more clients are asking about sustainability in this industry and how we are going to deal with it. As an industry, we need to establish guidelines and we need to step up our game.


The reality is that we are at a critical moment in the evolution of our industry. To be ableto come out of the near-death of our industry and bring it to our current state has been incredible and has taken a lot of work by a lot of strong-willed people. To now establish this and carry it forward will also take a very passionate and energetic team. When I look at the current board of directors of the EDPA and the initiatives they are working on, I seethat passion and commitment as strong or stronger than I have since I became involved17 years ago.


And if you are like I was and are looking for a place to step into the industry, now would be a great time to get involved. Bring on your passion!


See you on the show floor.


Jim Obermeyer has been in the exhibits and events industry 40 years, both as a corporate tradeshow manager and exhibit house owner. He can be reached at jobermeyer903@gmail.com

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