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On the Road Again

by Jim Obermeyer

On the road again
I can’t wait to get on the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again… Willie Nelson

By the time you read this, it will all be over.

But right now, two weeks before I head to my first client tradeshow since March of last year, the anticipation is growing steadily, and the excitement is definitely building.

In an industry that has been decimated by this pandemic we are all living through, even small signs of life bring hope. I have had two clients who planned to exhibit in shows this spring before their shows were cancelled. Well, technically not “cancelled,” just “pivoted to virtual.” Yeah, whatever.
We have all read about cities and venues starting to open, smaller shows starting to happen and larger shows moving from spring to fall in anticipation of the world being fully open by then.

But this show is happening. This one is real. I will be on a real show floor supervising installation of an actual exhibit with a team of live people for a client who will be there in person. There is nothing virtual about this one.

I can’t wait to find my way through a show hall full of crates, smell the forklift exhaust, dine at a food truck and sweat like a dog in the humid conditions of an un-airconditioned convention center.

I can’t wait to have live conversations with my crew, catch up with industry colleagues and spend time with my clients without having to log on to a Zoom call. Of course, I will have to be fully dressed and clean-shaven for the first time in a very long time. I can’t wait to have a drink and dinner with people I haven’t seen in a year or more, to catch up on their families, to share stories of the past and revel in the promises of the future.

And then to smell the fresh scent of just-laid aisle carpet and watch as throngs of attendees enter the show on opening day to start doing face-to-face business with exhibitors who have waited a very long time to do this again. I expect there will be a renewed energy in this audience.

A lot has been written in the last year about us humans and our need for social interaction and exploration. We are social animals, and we are explorers. We need to be with people, and we need to discover. And I think those of us who have dedicated our careers—our lives—to this industry are probably some of the most social and most dedicated explorers.

We are not made for sitting still in a small room by ourselves in front of a computer screen. We are made to be with people in our offices, in our shops, in presentations at our clients’ conference rooms, on convention center floors and hotel ballrooms. We are made to move from city to city, hotel to hotel and airport to airport. And to discover that amazing out-of-the-way local restaurant that we will remember and recommend for the rest of our lives.

I have heard it said that what we do for a living is not really a job, it is more of a lifestyle. A way of living that once you’re in it, it is hard to give up. The unpredictable and irregular hours, the 24/7/365 need for availability, the consistent travel. The fact that every project is different with changing requirements and expectations. Perhaps there is some truth to that. Perhaps it really is a lifestyle. I know an awful lot of us have certainly missed it.

But perhaps we are finally getting ready to get back to it. I know I can’t wait.

See you on the show floor … for real!

Jim Obermeyer has been in the exhibits and events industry for 39 years, both as a corporate tradeshow manager and exhibit house owner. He can be reached at jobermeyer903@gmail.com

This story originally appeared in the May/June 2021 issue of Exhibit City News, p. 12. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_may-june_2021

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