by Mike Morrison
As we draw closer to the fall season and what would normally be a major uptick in live events, shows, marketing efforts as people come off of summer vacation and get back to work … none of that is seemingly happening at this time as we still linger in drawbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest with protests, riots, looting, shootings and total disruption in many U.S. locations, total uncertainties from state and local governments on how to handle these major obstacles and an economy which for several years was on a blistering pace to out gain previous economic results … is now on a mission to eliminate itself and create a major uncertainty as to whether the US can rebound at all. These are surely troubling times.
The Don & Mike Show has been participating in ways that they could, not only with the weekly show offering of interviews to discuss today’s current weak and debilitating status for the event’s industry, but also in two face to face events held in second quarter in the form of Together Again Expo in Orlando at the Orange County Convention Center in July and also in the COVID-version of The Chicago Randy charity tournament. While Don and Mike were both in attendance and exhibiting in Orlando, and Mike was in Chicago land for the charity event, one thing was for sure at both events … they were not normal. They were very abnormal in several ways.
Being in Orlando in July during any year of the past would have seen the Central Florida King of Vacation land packed to the hilt with people, cars, foot traffic everywhere with visitors gleefully sweating in the Florida humid-laden, sauna-like conditions. However, this year was quite different. Driving down International Drive during the set up time as well as show day of the expo was the equivalent of driving in a dried up ghost town. Traffic on I-Drive was nonexistent and driving from one end of the road from the convention center to the other end where the Factory Mall Outlet lies could easily be done in mere minutes, compared to what normally would take longer than an hour in some cases.
At the convention center itself, with social distancing in place and wider aisles, directed traffic flow as well as reduced in person numbers … the event itself replicated something similar to a small town conference as opposed to normal size events held in such a large venue. Make no mistake, though, the effort from the originators of the event was anything but weak! With the determination of charging hell head on with water pistols, people were excited about being back in a show hall and for the first time in four or so months. However, the unique feeling in attending was not easy to disguise and the uncertain feelings were easily noticeable in attendees, exhibitors, and all involved and to be honest … will most likely be that way for some time to come.
With estimates of around 1,400 in person attendance and reports showing more than 8,000 virtual attendees, the show can be considered somewhat of a success, however with states changing the rules of public gatherings seemingly on a weekly basis, any momentum that the event built is at jeopardy of being lost by that, along with the almost immediate announcement that came out four days later that the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas in January would cancel the face to face aspect and move to an all digital offering for 2021. Many other shows in the calendar for 2020 followed suit shortly thereafter.
Mike flew home, repacked and flew to Chicago for a couple of days for client visits, and to participate in a very slim-number attended Chicago Randy event. It is estimated that 40 people attended and participated in the overall event, and though not 100 percent confirmed, Mike was the only one to have flown in from out of town for the event. The charity event, in its 17th year, was done for 2020 to create some camaraderie among area industry workers, many which were and are still in furlough status.
These two events were just a couple that were trying to make some sense of the current conditions we live in during 2020. But a couple of things are certain during this uncertain time. People, in general, are not comfortable to travel right now. Companies are not willing to risk their employees traveling, with the possibility of them getting ill from COVID-19. With COVID-19 only being part of our current societal issues, add to that civil unrest, governmental disruptions to business as a whole, cultural differences leading to social media-based all-out verbal and sometimes physical war/fights, media seemingly spelling gloom and doom for the future and last but not least, an election year to boot!
One thing is for sure, nothing is for sure! We will continue to highlight interviews with industry professionals to gauge the day to day situations that arise from these conditions and will keep our industry posted with The Don & Mike Show!
An excerpt of this story originally appeared in the Sept./Oct. issue of Exhibit City News, p. 19. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_sept-oct_2020