Notes From the Pandemic Front Lines

Frances Ferrante
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on print
Share on email

You don’t need us to tell you 2020 was a tough year. So many in this industry went from record-breaking forecasts in January, to the bottom of a cliff just months later as the COVID-19 pandemic shut us down, closed us in and shuttered most of the world’s trade shows. While many found ways to quickly shift to online events, the fallout has been disastrous for most shows throughout the world.

Now, with the vaccine rollout beginning to happen in the U.S. and around the world, and rapid-antigen tests beginning to become available in quantity, there are signs of hope on the horizon for trade shows in 2021. But even before this good news, trade show executives found glimmers of light in all the darkness 2020 wrought. You and your venue partners scrambled to find ways to keep exhibitors and attendees safe in ways that likely will live on long after the pandemic has receded. More importantly, you learned from — and leaned on — each other to find solutions to this year’s seemingly intractable problems.

We at Trade Show Executive have marveled at your positivity, your willingness to roll with the punches, and your eagerness to come together as an industry to launch pro-industry initiatives such as Go LIVE Together. As we kick 2020 to the curb, we want to share a few reflections we have collected along the way that illuminate just how strong, resilient and innovative you who captain this industry are.

Here’s to a better, stronger, healthier and more profitable new year! (Check out the flipbook for more insights.)

Charlie McCurdy, CEO, Informa Markets
“As live events return in various parts of the world, we’re committed to making them more powerful than ever before at restoring business prosperity and supporting millions of jobs across industries worldwide.”

 

 

Mindy Abel, CMP, CTA, Deputy Director, Anaheim Convention Center
“As 2020 winds to a close, we’ve gone from counting attendance to counting yards of plexiglass. We continue to count on one another to have difficult conversations, wishing for the tools we need to make decisions based on facts and searching for what the current facts truly are. We will grow from these times, as we do each year with the challenges we are faced with. True partnerships have emerged stronger than ever.

2020, thank you for this experience, time to build on and re-start with what counts most.”

 

David Causton, General Manager, McCormick Place
“We continue hearing that people are eager to resume in-person meetings, and so are we. Still, people are concerned about their safety. This time gave us the opportunity to expand our campus safety and cleanliness protocols, leading to the receipt of our GBAC STAR accreditation. Additionally, the pandemic prompted us to evaluate new ways to provide digital and hybrid solutions for our customers. We’ve also been collaborating with other venues, contractors and our customers to help navigate our approach to reopening. Our response has centered around flexibility, innovation and, above all, a commitment to safety for everyone on our campus.”

 

Herb Besaw, President & CEO, SPOON Exhibits and Events
“40 years ago, I got my first job in the trade show industry. ‘What is that?’ my parents said. After seeing so many changes and now the effects of COVID-19, I can honestly answer their question. It is the greatest group of resilient, creative, competitive, innovative and compassionate people in the world! It is hard work, long hours and passion.

We are currently asking many questions. When? How? What can I do? Remember this, my friends: Visualize the smiling faces on the opening of an event! SPOON Events is managing to adjust, innovate and implement both virtual and live event ideas that work for today and tomorrow!”

Daniel B. Schwarzbach, SPOHouston Police Department (Ret.), Executive Director/CEO, Airborne Public Safety Association
“Prior to the pandemic, we conducted 20-plus training events annually around North America, all in person. A huge portion of the value to our members who attend is the networking they get to do with their peers. While we have been able to spin off many of the classes we offer during these events to an in- teractive, live online platform, this benefit just can’t be replaced during virtual meetings, especially for a small community like public safety aviation.

It will take some time, but I believe in-person meetings will rebound strongly. That desire for personal interaction will bring us back together sooner rather than later.”

Saarah Samadani, CEO, New Bloom Media
“It is in these unprecedented times that we all have to sit and look back at how to continue forward with business as usual in drastically unusual circumstances. Particularly when it comes to events and trade shows, operating to full capacity is merely impossible. How do you mimic the foundation of events, the human con- nection and in-person meetings that help to determine future business plans or future deals, or even future strategic partnerships that are ultimately best for the business?

While virtual events are an attempt and simply our only option, they don’t quite allow trade shows and event management businesses to thrive in these times. And furthermore, the lack of support from the government for these types of businesses have been detrimental to the industry as a whole. How will it ever recover?”

David Hofflich, President, Oscar & Associates
“In 1947, Oscar & Associates started photographing trade shows. My grandparents lived through WWII and used terms like ‘Pre-War’ and ‘Post-War.’ I now refer to the years we have been in business as ‘Pre-19’ and ask myself what will the business of conventions look like ‘Post-19’?

Literally, world-changing innovations and ideas were unveiled, presented and displayed to see, touch, hear, smell and taste at each show, every week of every month. It was and will again be inspiring. Now, though, there is heartbreak everywhere. We thank everyone that is advocating and look forward to better days. We are resilient.”

Rob Cohen, Vice President, Display Supply & Lighting, Inc.
“First — sadness, for having to lay off very good, hardworking people. This reality is not taught in a text- book and has a profound impact on both the employees and the entrepreneur.

Second, while I believe in giving back, I now embrace the importance of advocating on behalf of our industry. The legislative aides of our elected officials have surprised me with their level of care and concern and their follow up to continue discussions.

Finally, I am blessed to have had so many wonderful conversations with my colleagues, simply checking in on one another.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not an oncoming train. Our industry will recover and be even stronger, with even closer bonds, in the near future.”

Britton Jones, Founder & CEO, NXT Events Media Group, LLC.
“As with any significant disruption or setback, the first step is to define it and its ramifications. The next is to find the new opportunities in this changed environment. Without the pandemic, we never would have produced The Nest Summit virtually. However, since that was our only option in 2020, we formed innovative partnerships that enabled us to create much wider viewership of our critical climate action content virtually than we ever would have produced in just a physical event. Embracing the impact of this virtual element will be instrumental to the future success of the event.

As always, being resourceful is key to creating new levels of value in the event business.”

Lydia Janow, Managing Director/Events, Aviation Week Network
“I have been involved in all aspects of events for over 40 years and never have I, or my team, experienced any- thing like COVID-19, and it’s a double whammy as we are in the aviation industry hosting global events on the commercial aftermarket. We were determined to host our event in Dallas/April, postponed to September, then canceled it along with a total of eight global events and pivoted to virtual. Our speakers on our virtual events stated they want live events and will fly to support the industry.

I’ve been at AWN for 29 years and have found that this industry is proud, strong, tough, enduring (like my team) and we will host live events in 2021 to bring them together … smaller/regional … my team and I are missing not only each other but interacting with this terrific community.”

Manish Chandak, President & CEO, Ungerboeck
“It is crucial during this time that we look up and look ahead because, just like all the past crises, this too will pass! Events are a very active business. There
is never time to pause to reflect and transform. Learning, brainstorming and preparing for the future need time more than money, and time we have!

Ungerboeck is investing this time on training and certification initiatives and partnering with customers to adapt and transform. The certifications create learning goals and credentials to help professionals face the future, whereas the engagement for digital transformation creates new paths ahead.”

Scott A. Wolters, Chief Events Officer, BNP Media
“Back in late February 2020, BNP Media decided to move all of our events from the March–June timeframe to July through December 2020 — assum- ing that we would be able to host in-person events by then. Um…no! Now we are hosting nine months of events (over 25) in five months’ time — all 100% virtual. This has put incredible pressure on BNP’s Events Division infrastructure, brands and our related support vendors.

We won’t make that mistake again. We recently decided to convert all Q-1 2021 in-person events to 100% virtual, hoping that we can begin to host in-person/hybrid events starting again in April 2021.”

George S. Borkovich, Principal, AEC Science & Technology, LLC
“Certainly, this has been a difficult time for us, not just domestically but on our international events as well. Given the inability to operate any in-person meetings this year and prepare for any in early 2021, we canceled seven scheduled live events from April 2020 through summer 2021 in Singapore, Australia, Europe and the U.S.

But we have not sat idle. In lieu, we have created a virtual program and started a membership, non-profit association. When we eventually come out of the COVID crisis, we will now have a key-person, C-level membership base to further support our future tradeshow activities. In just three months, we signed up some 2,500 members and are adding 40 new members a week. But we can’t wait to get back on the floor, face-to-face, again!”

Kevin Phillips, President, US Tradeshows
“During this challenging time, there have been numerous experiences that give me hope. I have been encouraged by the optimism that I’ve seen in our employees, clients, vendors and partners, which speaks to the wonderful people that choose to work in our industry. We have also heard firsthand from stakeholders and seen the research that proves how vital live events are to so many businesses — so I am confident our industry will rebound. Lastly, this experience has shown us that companies like ours that put our clients’ success above all else will continue to thrive once the pandemic is over.”

 

Melissa Householder, CEM, Manager, Trade Show GCSAA (Golf Course Superintendents Association of America)
“The past eight months have highlighted qualities of our team that are taken for granted during ‘normal’ trade show cycles — flexibility, willingness to learn, and the ability to come together to reach a new goal. The current landscape created by COVID-19 has allowed our team to better understand each other’s strengths. There are lessons in adversity, and I have been humbled by the ability of our team — and the industry—to handle whatever is thrown its way. The necessity and power of face-to-face meetings have also been made apparent, so I see the industry coming back even stronger.”

 

Kelly Fox, Senior Vice President, Meetings, Learning, Business Partnerships Institute of Food Technologists
“As a result of the pandemic, the Institute of Food Technologists pivoted our annual show from a three- day, on-site event that sees around 20,000 attendees to an immersive virtual experience. It was a significant undertaking in a short period of time, and we learned a lot. While there is no medium that can truly replicate an in-person trade show, we know that connection is more important than ever and will remain committed to convening all of our stakeholders in a way that maintains the health and safety of everyone.”

 

 

Jay Stevens, Executive Sales Director, Rise Exhibits 
“My sales business has been devastated by the COVID virus. As the ‘quarterback’ who brings in our sales for the team, my struggles have been the ability to communicate. Many are not responding to emails, phone calls or reach outs, and that leads to discouragement. Seeing statements about the event business not coming back until the pandemic has a vaccine doesn’t allow us to have a strong sense of confidence.

I feel that as we are a nation of innovation, desire and tech, there are avenues we can instate that will allow live events to come back with a sense of confidence and safety. Even though ROI may be less, it will give us an avenue of marketing and sales that will help stimulate our economy and. overall, the industry. If we can implement change in how we attend, help unlock travel restrictions and reduce overall fear with true factual data, I feel we can bring back what makes a key part of business strategy.”

Bill Colwell Exec. VP, Sales & Marketing, The Design Agency, Inc
“Friends ask me all the time how my business is doing. I reply, ‘What business?’ As with the rest of the trade show and event sector, we are virtually totally shut down. Nothing to do and no end to the situation in sight for several months.

I know we will come roaring back once there is a vaccine, herd immunity or the virus runs its course. Until then, I feel for those with families to support, or college tuition to pay, or those just struggling to survive. We need to finally be recognized as a large, vital industry that will be the last to restart and need some government support. We are a problem-solving industry faced with a nearly unsolvable problem.”

Tim Herd, CPRE, CEO, Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society
“At first, it was just news in another country, then an ‘over-reaction’ in our own, then a huge disruption to my job, and then it was personal, as my son struggled to breathe in the ER.

Canceling a statewide conference and expo four days before it was to start, then working 70 strenuous, consecutive days during the shutdown, to try to provide guidance when no one had answers, is now a memorable life story.

My observation: As character develops in crucibles, resilience ripens in distresses — but only when faith in a better future is intentionally included.”

Michael Lee, Operations Specialist | Fashion, Informa Markets
“This is certainly an unprecedented time and nothing I could have ever imagined I’d be experiencing in my lifetime. Although we don’t like to see our business hitting the pause button, this offers the perfect opportunity to take a step back and evaluate business practices and personal development.

Within our business, we quickly pivoted to produce a successful digital trade show, in anticipation that the near future will call for hybrid events. Personally, I’ve been able to take the time to consider where improvements can be made, whether it be in time management or self-motivation.”

Jacqueline Beaulieu, HMCC, Director, Strategic Marketing & Client Engagement, Poretta & Orr
“During this pandemic, I am reminded daily of the strength, creativity and adaptability of my colleagues. Finding ways to continue to do business and make meaningful connections despite the lack of face-to-face engagement opportunities has been a challenge that we have risen to meet. So while the industry looks to the future and beyond the current situation, I have much admiration for those who are keeping creativity alive, adapting to the times and demonstrating a determined resilience.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. 

It is the one that is most adaptable to change. ’— Charles Darwin

Mary Beth Rebedeau, President, The Rebedeau Group
“The recent 19th anniversary of 9/11 reminded me that in the face of great adversity, we as an industry always seem to find a way forward. My clients have shifted their face-to-face events online. And as we are able to be together again physically, I believe we will use the best technology honed over the past few months to further enhance our conferences and trade shows. Via technology and a new mindset, more people will have access to events, expanding the brand’s reach, delivering more customers to exhibitors and sponsors, and creating an even richer attendee experience.”

 

Jim Wurm, Executive Director, Exhibitor Appointed Contractor Association
“9/11 was tragic, but we bounced back quickly. The 2008 recession was worse because it took several years to get our footing again. It’s scary to think about the long-term impact of COVID. Nothing in our lifetimes compares.
Where would be without Zoom? I’m grateful it exists, but …. my workload has increased dramatically as a result. I spend all my time creating weekly Zoom programs to provide members with industry updates, advocating for financial stimulus from Congress along with other members of Go LIVE Together, and finding other ways to lift the spirits of those who are hurting.”

 

John W. Bettag, CMP, Senior Vice President, Business Development, Heritage Trade Show Services                                          “No business prepares for a complete shutdown — much less one that might last a year. No business prepares to pivot 180 degrees, because their services instantly are no longer needed. Like our competitors, we have had to furlough and unfortunately lay off far too many, for far too long. We know that some of our Heritage family will not return, and that pains me.

Nevertheless, we will forge forward, we will take care of our family, and we are prepared to take care of our clients when needed again. Our outlook is bullish because we believe in the value of face-to-face.”

Jeff D’Entremont, Vice President of Client Services, Adstrategies
“The impact of the pandemic has been very challenging for both our business and our clients, but we are not without hope. What we have seen as a result of all this is a willingness from everyone in the events community to be more creative, collaborative and supportive. We have worked with vendors, venue partners and show producers to deliver safe and sustainable events in several markets across the country, and while they may look a bit different, they are happening! We are slowly turning the corner and continue to remain positive as we look toward the future.”

 

Jerry Lewis, President, Show Management Solutions, Inc                                                “In my almost 40 years in the trade show industry, there have been many difficult challenges — even those predicted to be industry-ending ones. And this pandemic has been by far the most significant.
However, our industry has always been a resilient one that has consistently managed to overcome any obstacles, no matter how seemingly insurmountable. I’m confident that we’ll adapt and get through this challenge as well — and reach a new, different, exciting, and, yes, challenging future.

Meanwhile, I’m so grateful for our team’s and our clients’ hard work and sacrifices to push through these difficult times.”

Diane F Vidoni, CEM, Chief Operating Officer, eMerge Americas
“We’ve fully embraced the notion that parts of the events industry will be completely overhauled for the foreseeable future. Although we hope that this ‘new normal’ we’re assimilating isn’t permanent, we’re preparing by focusing on experience. We’ve revamped how our employees experience our company culture while working remotely, thinking of ways to keep them supported, engaged and connected to leadership. In turn, that emanated in how our team has developed creative touchpoints for the Miami ecosystem and the event experience for sponsors and attendees. We learned that nurturing our people during this pandemic has resulted in more authentic, impactful events.”

 

Sarah Fantauzzi, Executive Vice President, Sales, Willwork
“2020 will go down in history as the year that brought many to their breaking point both personally and professionally. But as we all do in our industry, we adapted and evolved. This truly became the only way to continue. Thankfully, that has always been ‘The Willwork Way.’

2020 gave us the opportunity to show more clients the benefit of our proven hybrid event solutions. We are also offering a highly successful, fully virtual solution while diving into the Personal Protective Equipment world and adapting to new regulations like champions. We’re optimistic for the future and look forward to 2021.”

David Zimmerman, President, Southern Shows, Inc
“Southern Shows is a small family business that has held well over 400 events since its first show in 1961. We currently produce 11 shows but were only able to hold three this year. 2020 company revenue will be down 80% from 2019. We are fortunate that the company is debt-free and has always maintained a healthy cash reserve, which allowed us to offer exhibitor refunds.

Initially, the understanding was that this crisis would last a few months, and by the fall, public events would be allowed. Now, no one is sure, which is a tough reality for companies that make their living planning.”

Henri “Doc” Calitri, President, A.T. Expo Corp
“American Towman Expositions, serving the towing and recovery industry, was on track for a banner year in 2020, but had to cancel all four of its shows due to Covid-19. It has been a devastating hit, but we have already begun plans to produce the four shows in 2021, beginning in June and ending in November. With a smaller staff, we are at present working from home and use Zoom for meetings.

We also introduced a unique Virtual Tow Show and have received rave reviews from our exhibitors. We plan to retain it all year-long to complement the live shows.”

Matthew G. Laws, President, MGL Management
“MGL was 2 days away from traveling to one of our largest military conferences when events were put on pause in mid-March. We waited to see how long the shutdown would last and then decided that something more needed to be done. So I, along with other industry professionals, created Safe Expo, LLC to help live events return safely. We’re working hard to adjust to the new requirements the pandemic has forced not only the U.S. — but the world — to endure.

We look forward to continuing the progress we have made and have a positive outlook for when live events return.”

Herb Besaw, President & CEO, SPOON Exhibits and Events
“40 years ago, I got my first job in the trade show industry. ‘What is that?’ my parents said. After seeing so many changes and now the effects of COVID-19, I can honestly answer their question. It is the greatest group of resilient, creative, competitive, innovative and compassionate people in the world! It is hard work, long hours and passion.

We are currently asking many questions. When? How? What can I do? Remember this, my friends; visualize the smiling faces on the opening of an event! SPOON Events is managing to adjust, innovate and implement both virtual and live event ideas that work for today and tomorrow!”

Daniel B. Schwarzbach, SPO, Houston Police Department (Ret.), Executive Director/CEO, Airborne Public Safety Association
“Prior to the pandemic, we conducted 20-plus training events annually around North America, all in-person. A huge portion of the value to our members who attend is the networking they get to do with their peers. While we have been able to spin off many of the classes we offer during these events to an interactive, live online platform, this benefit just can’t be replaced during virtual meetings, especially to a small community like public safety aviation.

It will take some time, but I believe in-person meetings will rebound strongly. That desire for personal interaction will bring us back together sooner rather than later.”

Edwin J. Goitia, Director, Final Stretch Events
“When COVID-19 hit, we decided to launch a production company to help local businesses in need. We produced livestream shows, video content and much more for small- and medium-sized businesses in the area. We spent all of our time perfecting our craft, upgrading our equipment and networking. In some ways, we wanted to show others how important it was to get their message across, and it worked beautifully.

“Everyone benefited, and because of our involvement in our local community, local restaurants and non-profits gained exposure and will survive these uncertain times.”

Chris Casconi, Vice President of Sales, Willwork Global Event Services
“This year has brought its fair share of challenges to me professionally, but I have been able to use this time to strengthen client relationships by offering new services and providing innovative ideas to plan for the safe return of live events. Personally, my time at home has been gratifying as I have been able to spend more time with my family, especially as we welcomed our third child in July. I’m confident that face-to-face events will return stronger than ever due to the resiliency and strong commitment of the people in this industry.”

 

Steve Riches, Principal, Laguna Displays
“In the past 6 months, all our clients have canceled their trade shows for the remainder of 2020. Fortunately, most of these shows have been rescheduled for 2021.

“Laguna Displays is a member of the International Federation of Exhibition and Event Services (IFES), and we have twice-monthly Zoom meetings with fellow IFES partners. We discuss how we are coping and what is happening with trade shows in our respective countries. In June, our annual meeting was held in a hybrid format. Some of our local European partners were live in Germany, while the remaining partners from various countries participated via Zoom.”

Philip McKay, CEO, nGage Events, LLC
“COVID-19 has changed the way we all act, live and think. Clearly, these are uncharted waters for all of us, and therefore we’ll be learning together. Our businesses have been turned upside down, some are on life support, and we need to approach the situation carefully and as strategically as possible. There have been moments of inspiration, but mostly new challenges that can spawn transformation.

“Our team has grown stronger, more resilient and patient. Our family and friends have realized that being safe, caring for each other and sharing our love is really what is important. We’ll get through this together!”

Steve Basch, Chief Executive Officer, Shepard
“This pandemic has certainly changed things in the live events industry, and with change comes both negative and positive outcomes. It isn’t necessary to recap the negative at this time, but one of the positive(s) is that while working with our associates, customers and vendor partners to pull together at a time like this, it is proof that the live events industry is filled with some of the most resilient, creative and hard-working problem solvers in the world.

“While live events will be different on the other side of the pandemic, I have no doubt that they will remain relevant and well-executed!

Jim Kelley, Vice President, Marketing & Industry Relations, Fern Expo
“I am tired of seeing our industry decimated. I am tired of seeing people I have known for years lose their careers. I am tired of wondering when it will all end. Yet I am hopeful and encouraged by what the future holds.

“The past few months have reinforced the talent, passion and kindness of those in our industry, and the value we bring to the economy. Personally, it has made me step back, be a little more patient, show a bit more empathy and find ways to give back. Things are far from perfect, but we will all be OK as long as we continue to make progress.”

Susan Newman, SVP, Conferences, National Retail Federation
“When our events switched from in-person to virtual, everyone at NRF stepped up, realized the importance of creating new offerings that served our industry and quickly focused on re-envisioning how our in-person events would come to life in a digital space. Given the circumstances, as a team, I feel proud of what we accomplished and how we continue to support an amazing industry that was devastated by the pandemic.

“How we provide support may change, but the mission and goal always remain the same.”

Peter Eelman, Vice President & CXO, AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, IMTS – The International Manufacturing Technology Show
“Community. In a word, that has been both the biggest challenge and the most interesting opportunity that the COVID crisis has created for the manufacturing technology area. The cancellation of IMTS removed the single most dynamic and relied-upon event in the two-year cycle manufacturers operate in. Building community with staff, show exhibitors and attendees is the missing link, and developing alternatives has consumed us. Our IMTS Network is broadcasting the week of IMTS and IMTS Spark, an online platform for connecting the community, will run for six months after that. Our hope is that these will keep the community connected until we meet again.”

Rich Keefe, CTS, Technical Producer, AVFX
“2020 has been the most shocking and disappointing year I can recall. Everything is backwards now. I’m used to traveling and long hours, doing something I love. I miss it. We all miss it.

“My company quickly enacted an austerity plan knowing jobs will be canceled. We literally had to shut our doors for a period of time, which was crazy stressful. We were then listed as an essential business and pivoted to virtual events for new and existing clients. This has expanded our client list, and we’ll now rely on this work to keep us doing well into next year.”

Joseph Holgado, President, Marquis Exhibits
“Shutting down in the spring, while difficult, was something we knew we could sustain for as long as it took to return to ‘normal.’ That being said, knowing when we could return to work has been the moving target that makes the day-to-day anxiety intensify as the pandemic rages on.

“At the onset, knowing that shutting down was for the greater good of all was not even a question. Watching other industries get back to at least a shadow of normalcy while we have to stand by idle is frustrating. If it is safe for sporting events, air travel and political rallies, surely with regulation we can find a way to make it safe in a controlled convention environment.”

Libby Brown, Executive Director, Atlanta Jewelry Show
“Recognizing that unprecedented times create new opportunities, we found our silver lining. It has not been easy, but we learned valuable lessons through growth and perseverance. We learned we can launch a virtual event with limited resources. We realized that in-person events always win against virtual events, and the importance of face-to-face must never be underestimated. We are resilient, and I know we will thrive in the “next normal.”

 

Nabil Moubayed, General Manager, The Kimpton Gray Hotel
“We have all gone through the most difficult and unknown times in our industry’s history. It is hard to predict when the true bulk of our business will return. All of our Kimpton properties are working hard to instill our consumers with the confidence they are looking for to start planning meaningful travel again. We are continually fine-tuning our operations to be ready to welcome them back with open arms. We wanted to provide our employees with some positive inspiration that things will get better, which is why our hotels in the Midwest have stayed open. We are clear in our determination to be a part of the recovery, and we are eagerly looking forward to bringing more employees back to work and continuing to create unique and inspired experiences for our guests. Together, we can all do this.”

Yancy Weinrich, Chief Operating Officer, Reed Exhibitions
“As I navigate this pandemic, I find myself on a roller-coaster both personally and professionally with good days and challenging days. What I have learned though, is that the people at Reed are tremendous to work with to navigate all of the unknown that is thrown at us daily. They continue to innovate through digital and virtual offerings and are staying very close to our customers. I am confident that when face-to-face comes back, we will emerge strong, and we look forward to being there for our customers to provide a platform for them to resume business. It’s been a time for exploration, both personally and professionally. I am documenting it all in my ‘COVID journal’ so that years from now I can go back and reflect on this unprecedented time in our history!”

Stuart Weiser, CEM, Manager, Exhibition & Event Services, AVIXA
“Our industry has conquered so many challenges in the last 20 years. AVIXA’s InfoComm 2020 was scheduled to open June 16 in Las Vegas. Inevitably, the show was canceled on March 30 — leaving roughly two months to deliver a virtual event. We were in unchartered territory. InfoComm Connections 2020 was born, debuting to a global audience, and successfully delivered over the original show dates.

“The impact of an event professional creates and strengthens the connections between people. Today we set ‘empty’ events bathed in red to call attention to our plight. Ultimately, the need for people to meet, greet and eat has always come back stronger than before. We will be here when it does. Support the event industry; support each other.”

Douglas E. Lugo, CEM, Director | ICRE, Informa
“When the pandemic hit our industry in March, at first, I viewed it as a disruption. Perhaps a few shows would be affected, but overall we would bounce back quickly by summer and/or fall. It wasn’t long before this “disruption” transitioned into complete paralysis. LinkedIn quickly became a platform for career obituaries from industry friends.

“The pandemic has splintered the industry into two factions. On one side you have the virtual event aficionados who are adamant that this is the “new normal.” On the other side you have those who are confident that, with a safe vaccine, the industry will go back to successful face-to-face events. It is my hope that the industry comes roaring back to where both sides have a comfortable seat at the table.”

CJ Berg, Director of Sales and Marketing, Champion Logistics Group
“Champion has built our organization around live event logistics, and more specifically, trade shows. The friendships we’ve created on the show floor have been forged over decades of support. Seeing these people suffer has been the most difficult aspect of this unfortunate situation. The uncertainty surrounding the long-term health of the industry, and the conflicting information regarding its reopening, have only added to that frustration.

“Champion is looking forward to good health and happiness for everyone that supports this wonderful industry.”

Gary Shapiro, President and CEO, Consumer Technology Association
“The pandemic and global health concerns about the spread of COVID-19 have had a profound impact on the trade show industry and incredible partners like the City of Las Vegas. But this time of uncertainty is an opportunity for our industry to evolve and emerge stronger and smarter. Technology helps us all work, learn and connect during the pandemic — and that innovation is also helping us reimagine how we do business.”

  

Hervé Sedky, President, Reed Exhibitions Americas & Global ReedPop,  RELX Group plc
“In a time of completely unanticipated and entirely novel industry challenges, I am most proud of and inspired by Reed Exhibitions’ employees dedicated efforts and steadfast commitment to our customers. Their resilience, perseverance and quick thinking have enabled us to provide innovative platforms for networking, content and community across our show portfolios. The teams’ resourcefulness and imaginations are matched only by their abilities to deliver on Reed Exhibitions’ values and promises. Small businesses comprise approximately 80% of our exhibitor base: These are individuals and families who rely on our trade shows to help them market innovative products, generate leads and build meaningful connections. They are eager for us to safely reopen when the time is right.  Our work is not just about them — it’s for them.” 

Tommy Blitsch, Director — Conventions Trade Shows & Casino Division, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Secretary Treasurer/CEO, Teamsters Local 631
“The devastation of the COVID-19 Pandemic on our industry has affected every major city in the United States. The Trade Show and Event community was the first to shut down and may be the last to reopen. This country has a long recovery ahead which will not be complete until the Trade Show and Convention Industry is up and running again. 

“The Trade Show and Convention community here in the USA is a large family. All families experience their ups and downs and times of hardship but through it all, families always come together. Our family has been hurting over the past several months while we continue to deal with COVID-19. I want our family to know that we will get through this. While the shows may have stopped, our industry leaders are working hard so our family has a future, and at some point time we will be back. And when it’s time we will Go LIVE Together.”   

Brian Field,  Interim President and CEO, Emerald
“The devastating impact of COVID-19 on businesses across the world has pushed us and our entire industry to reexamine and reimagine everything we do and how we best support our customers and communities.  Many of the ways things used to be done, how we used to work, are now gone — and we now are challenged to reinvent.   To reinvent ourselves and our industry.  This can be unnerving, at times terrifying — and exciting too — as we embrace these changes and build our future together — with both focus and urgency.”   

 

Bob McClintock, Executive Vice President, Convention Centers, ASM Global
“I have heard it said many times that this is an industry that you either love working in or you are seeking career change. The hardest part of this is to see so many dedicated professionals who truly love their work and the people they meet faced with the uncertainty of how they will continue on. Our job is to work together to bring this industry back stronger than before so that they can resume doing what they do best.” 

 

 

Nicole Hallada, Senior Vice President, Exhibitions & Marketing, Association of Equipment Manufacturers  
“For our vendor and partner friends hardest hit, we see you. We are working hard at developing a transformational future and we will be right back with you with bigger opportunities as soon as we can.”  

 

 

Tony Lorenz,  Founder and CEO, HeadSail
“Over 30 years, I have seen thousands of small businesses across every vertical grow as a direct result of their engagement in business events. Without business events, small  business growth is severely stunted. And the resulting impact on the broader economy is negative and significant. Our economy depends on the meta industry of events to drive small business forward, more than any other media on the planet.”   

 

Steve Hill, CEO and President, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority
“While our industry has certainly faced and overcome challenges over the decades, there’s been nothing more devastating than watching the health and economic impact the virus has had on our family, friends, colleagues and guests. 

“There is no full tourism recovery without ensuring health and safety measures are in place for everyone.  To that end, we remain steadfast in our commitment to continue working with our resort and convention partners, health experts and local, state and federal leaders to bring back jobs, visitors, events and conventions as soon and safely as possible. 

“We are resilient.  We are Las Vegas. ” 

Mark Tester, Executive Director, OCCC  
“After weeks of extensive preparations, planning and training, the Orange County Convention Center is excited to welcome back our clients, attendees and employees. We were honored to play a role in the successful execution of the 47th AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships and the Together Again Expo, back-to-back in July. Gaining widespread industry attention, these events provided hope, optimism and practical solutions at a time when our industry needs it most. By providing a responsible, data-driven plan,  The Center of Hospitality  is securing its future as a venue and an economic driver for the destination and the industry. 

“The Orange County Convention Center has incorporated some of the most stringent protocols of the GBAC STAR program into our industry-defining Recovery and Resiliency Guidelines as we continue to work hard to recover from this public health crisis. Additionally, our groundbreaking collaboration with Orlando Health elevates our rigorous protocols and shows our commitment to keeping employees and attendees healthy and safe. 

“We care deeply about our clients, guests and staff and we will always do what is in the best interest of our community. We remain committed to the economic resiliency of our industry and our clients.”  

Roy T. Benear, Vice President, Exhibits + Specialty Events — PSAV
“My role at PSAV is to focus on connecting and inspiring our exhibit AV clients in the F2F tradeshow space. Our team made the shift to virtual, and tapped into PSAV’s depth of experience in digital events, and we were able to gain traction. Thirty-plus shows later and growing, with nearly 700 exhibitors in production who we are helping to find success, reinforces the value of trade shows. Despite the impact of COVID-19 on our industry, trade shows remain a critical part of the global economy. Yes, “Face-to-Face” will return, it’s an innately human need; but in the interim exhibiting, as in life, will survive and return stronger than before.”  

 

Bruce Bonyun, Vice President, Patient Bond
“We had three people scheduled to attend the HIMSS show to host client meetings and work a small booth on the show floor. We had 30+ meetings scheduled with attendees, vendors and past and current clients. Much of the benefit of this show is to be able to walk the floor and participate in sessions to identify potential vendor partners, to see past colleagues and past clients, all of whom may be a potential partner or could help introduce our solution to prospective clients and partners.  The benefit of attending, networking and meeting new people can’t be understated and realistically can’t be replicated in a virtual environment.  This show took a significant amount of our annual marketing budget for 2020, and with its cancellation and a ‘no refund policy,’ many small companies were materially impacted.” 

Christine Pepper, MBA, CAUE, CEO, National Funeral Directors Association
“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been deeply felt by the National Funeral Directors Association. Our members have bravely served on the front lines, caring for the dead with dignity and bringing comfort to those who mourn. Our members relied on us to provide them with vital information and resources so they could keep their doors open and carry out their sacred duties in as safe a manner as possible.” 

 

Mark Taylor, President & CEO, Apogee Exhibits
“As a small-business owner, I’ve come to value the staff we are fortunate enough to have, and hope to have back. I’ve had to get the mail, sweep the floors and empty the trash while my staff was furloughed. It gives a leader a true sense of the value of their team when they have to walk in their shoes. Their resilience and passion help keep my spirits positive. The future of live events may be different, but we will return and our comeback will be epic.” 

 

Donna R. Karl, CMP, Director of Event Services, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
“The health and safety of our guests are top priority and it has always been our commitment to provide the highest level of care. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, we have taken this opportunity to improve our cleaning processes and ensure we codify refined practice for our continued safety and protection. In addition, we have taken this opportunity review our customer service tools and we are happy to announce new tools are being introduced. Equally as important as establishing these new protocols will be the process to continue to evaluate and adjust the course where necessary.”

 

Stacey Gros, Business Manager, AllCuesGo Event Productions
“Our story is not unique. We, like everyone in our industry, watched with concern and trepidation as show after show cancelled.  We looked for opportunities to alter our product offering, launching SiteUnseen.io to deliver broadcast-quality production to live streaming and virtual events. In addition, I  have seized the opportunity to bring awareness to our industry with great organizations like Go Live Together. I have called on Congress and  worked with the Texas Workforce Commission to hold webinars for out-of-work Texans and their employers.”  

 

Jose Lopez, Vice President, AFR Trade Show Furnishings
“AFR is deeply committed to this great industry and all the amazing individuals within it. We’ve maintained a core group of essential team members to meet our partners’ needs throughout this pandemic. With a thoughtful, measured approach and strict safety protocols we have successfully executed several projects.  We’re all facing similar adversities but there’s no group better prepared to overcome this unprecedented challenge than those who make up Go Live Together. This industry is comprised of problem-solving crisis management miracle workers and our collective mission is to do everything possible to get the great people of our live-events world back to work” 

Don Walsworth, President, Walsworth
“With the amount of money that trade shows contribute to the national and global economy, the number of people employed by these industries and the number of businesses that support these events, we believe their recovery is vital to recovery of our country’s economy.”