If you’ve been in this business for very long, and have traveled to the same convention cities numerous times, you probably have your favorite hangouts. And if you’ve been one of the ‘regulars’ there, no doubt you have folks who you see every time you’re there. The sitcom ‘Cheers’ comes to mind; Cliff and Norm at the corner of the bar.
There is such a place in Orlando. A place where many in the tradeshow industry hang out after work hours. A place many of you reading this know all too well. Every time I am in Orlando, my I&D supervisor and I have to go by there for at least one evening. We always run into people we know, and we always end up staying longer than we expect to.
On this last trip, we spent the evening there with some folks we hadn’t seen in at least three years, probably longer. Guys who we used to work with a lot. Guys whose paths have gone in different directions over the course of time. Guys who, when you do get together, it’s like the good old days. The stories are re-told and the laughter is even louder.
And then there is the place in West Des Moines, Iowa, where my crew and I spent two weeks during the Farm Progress Show in August. A new pub, literally just across the drive from our hotel. Way too convenient. Turns out the place was only a few months old and was still building a clientele.
At the end of week one, we were ‘regulars’ and knew most of the patrons and all of the help. By the time we left town after two weeks, there were hugs and handshakes all around, and we felt like we were leaving old friends.
Thinking about these events, it occurs to me what a blessing it is to have so many friends around the industry and around the country. Sometimes I take it for granted that I’ll see my industry friends always. But circumstances change, people change positions, and like two ships passing in the night, they’re gone and not seen again.
I’ve started thinking about the other people I used to see a lot out there on the show floor who have disappeared from my view. I hope we will once again connect, if only for dinner and conversation.
I also started thinking about new friends; people I have just met in the last couple years who have grown to be friends. People I do see on a regular basis out there. People who add to the growing tapestry of my life. It’s one of the great things about this industry – being able to build a network of friends all over the country. Being able to travel halfway across the country and still share a meal with a friend.
As road warriors, we are sometimes portrayed as being out there all by ourselves, eating dinners in hotel restaurants alone and spending lonely nights away from family and friends. I guess I have been fortunate. That has rarely been the case for me. While I am away from my family, I am usually in the company of friends, whether they are clients, suppliers, labor crews or acquaintances from the show.
What better way to spend the off hours than with old friends or new? With industry friends I have been given a private tour of the Kennedy Space Center, taken a boat ride through San Diego harbor, sailed on Lake Michigan off the coast of downtown Chicago and explored the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
On one September excursion, a friend and I left Las Vegas at 8:00 in the morning in shorts and T-shirts, only to arrive at the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park in a snow storm. Yeah, we looked like tourists in our new Grand Canyon souvenir sweatshirts. But we stayed there all day and watched the sun set over the canyon. What a great memory. And there are so many more.
The bottom line is this: Through all the hard work and long hours and frustrating moments on the show floor, there have also been some pretty incredible times with the people I’ve met along the way. And some fun times in local establishments with old friends.
Merry Christmas, Bill and Jim. And Merry Christmas to all of you. Enjoy the holidays with your friends and family.
See you on the show floor.
Jim Obermeyer has been in the tradeshow industry over 30 years, both as a corporate tradeshow manager and exhibit house executive. He is a partner in a new company: Reveal: Exhibiting a World of Difference. He can be reached at email@example.com.