It happens every day in every city around the world. A trade show opens.
The carpet is laid, the signs are hung, the products are polished and the booth staff is all in their uniforms waiting to look at badges and determine who represents a big sale. At this point, all the hard work is done. The blood, sweat, and sometimes tears, have been shed. Any problems that have been nailed up and patched over were quietly worked through.
To truly understand what a trade show is, you have to experience the move-in. I may be jaded as my first trade show was CONEXPO-CON/AGG; the biggest and the best trade show in my unbiased opinion. But to see the first booths being marked on an open floor or in an empty lot, then watch it transform into its end result is quite the experience.
I’m moving in my 6th CONEXPO-CON/AGG show right now. I’ve seen industry friends that I’ve known for almost 20 years. I’ve watched company representatives share smiles in greeting as they commiserate about the length of move-in and laugh at stories they’ve shared show after show. I’ve seen competitors’ equipment in each other’s booths to help build stands and product. There is a vibe of stressful schedules, missed deadlines and straining budgets, balanced with feelings of accomplishment, friendships and good times.
The feeling of community is what I’ve grown to love about trade shows. I believe it takes a village to raise a child and it takes a community to open a show. All the family is here–from show staff to exhibitor personnel; contractors to union labor; security to convention center staff; food trucks to industry publication spies. We work in concert with each other to showcase everyone’s best efforts. And we do it for as long as it takes through whatever kind of weather, just to get it done.
I may be feeling a bit melancholy as the trade show industry recently lost an icon in Bob Dallmeyer. To me, he exemplified what our industry does best–bring people together. I sit back and think of the exhibitors that have known my family and me throughout the years, the vendor staff who I used to share trials and tribulations with, staff birthdays, and the contracted floor managers that know every one of my kids’ names. These are things that I love about what I do — the relationships that are forged, the lessons learned about partnerships and trust, and the belief in that what we do makes a difference for so many.
But honestly, no one really gets it unless they’ve experienced it, from the move-in.