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Ten years of ramblings

I realized as I sat down to write this column that this is column number 120; exactly ten years since I wrote the first column for Don Svehla’s Exhibit City News.

I was at TS2 2000 in Washington, DC, Don and I were chatting at one of the receptions when we got into a discussion about writing a column for his publication. I agreed to give it a try, but wanted the freedom to write about whatever came to mind, as long as it had some connection to our industry.

Curiosity sent me back into the archives to see what I could possibly have written about so many times. Some of the columns were straight on rants, or raves, about issues in our tradeshow business. Others were more or less a feeble attempt to tie something I was writing about into the industry, just to cover myself.

The column that to this day has generated the most reader response was entitled The Great Drayage Rip-off at LVCC, written in December 2004. Most of what was received in response to this column was written by anonymous, and couldn’t have been printed in the paper even if we had wanted to.

On the other hand, several columns praising the sometimes thankless hard work of I&D guys created appreciation for a part of our industry that is sometimes overlooked.

There were specific columns on customer service, on selling value versus price, on protecting intellectual capital, and on generational differences; just about every aspect of our business. Broader topics such as creating balance in life, having a passion for client service, building a caring leadership team, and writing your very own bucket list are also there.

Lessons learned came from car salesmen, sports stars, cow bellies and jet fuel, our kids, a breakfast waitress at the Hilton New Orleans, and countless other places. And speaking of kids, early columns referenced lessons my elementary aged children learned while recent columns point to experiences they are having in college. I guess it has been 10 years …

Sometimes the columns hit a more somber note; reflections on 9/11, musings on mentors now gone, the senseless loss of life of a highway worker, the importance of the Randy Smith Memorial Golf Classic and the EDPA Foundation to our industry.

Through it all, I have always enjoyed the challenge of having to come up with something to write about each month. Sometimes I know well in advance of the first-of-the-month deadline what I am going to write about, something happens to me, I see something happen in our industry, or someone emails me a suggestion. Other times, I sit at my desk and stare at the computer waiting for something to pop up on the screen.

I’ve written columns at the office and at home, in airports, airplanes and hotels, on the show floor and out of the country, and at all hours of the day and night.

Tracing through 10 years of columns also reveals there are some things in our industry that have not changed a bit; bundling, protection of intellectual capital, our designs, our high levels of customer service. There are some things that are radically different now; anybody remember the dot com boom?

Through all of it, what I see is constant and unwavering passion for this stuff that is played out every day by the individuals that make up this industry. Once you’re in this business for awhile you tend to stick with it. It’s hard to get away from.

And I guess once you start writing columns, it’s hard to stop that as well. Thanks for putting up with my ramblings for 10 years.
See you on the show floor.

Jim Obermeyer has been in the tradeshow industry 28 years, both as a corporate trade show 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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