We can get caught up in an imaginary world pretty easily. Just try following the stock market as it bounces and bounces. And bounces. See your IRA value go UP. See it go down. Yes, it’s real money, and yes, you are hoping it does well, but until you decide to actually pull the money out and put it to use, such as retirement, it’s not real. It’s just numbers on a screen or monthly statement. No matter how much your Tesla holdings have increased, until you sell and put the cash into a bank account, it’s a (mostly) imaginary world.
Same in the world of tradeshows. You can dream and plan and work towards your next show, but in these days of COVID-19, the actual date might not set. Your flight tickets are not purchased. Your hotels are not reserved. Your booth space may not be finalized. Your booth graphics will change, but until you know exactly what products you’ll be promoting at the show, it’s hard to plan much without knowing when the show take place. Or if it’ll take place.
What to do?
You can play ‘what if?’ There’s nothing wrong with a game of what if. It’s how ideas are brought forth. How they’re measured and assessed. Discarded or amended. Set aside for the future.
What if the show doesn’t happen until 2022? What if everything changes and suddenly, we have to have a new exhibit ready in three months? Playing what if doesn’t take much time, and it doesn’t commit you to anything. But it does allow you and your team to look at the various paths ahead that may or may not open up. It allows you to look at multiple contingencies. Yes, you may already be doing this, but try doing it and expanding the horizon. Try to imagine things that before may have been unimagineable.
We’re living in unprecedented times. Today you may be busier than you’ve been in months. But tomorrow you may have time to play a game of what if.
In the past few weeks, new stories have popped up on the New York Times, Reuters, National Geographic, and others about the COVID-19 Pandemic affecting the feasibility of an open office format in workplaces. It’s a good question and there are no easy answers.
An open office puts people, sometimes dozens of them (or more) into an environment where people work within a few feet of other. In today’s social distancing world, even as states and businesses work to get back to some semblance of normal, many employees will not be as enthusiastic about the open office as their managers might be.
Employee Anxiety Levels
A good manager will likely realize that the anxiety of their employees will range from one end of the spectrum to the other, and will go to lengths to provide safety, both physical and emotional, to their employees.
What does that mean on a practical level? For one, it might mean that many people continue to work from home. If it works, it may be the thing to do.
But other companies and other employees may be itching to get back to the office. Yeah, working from home has its bennies, but it also has its challenges: kids, neighborhood noises, spouses also working from home. Juggling all of those elements can’t be easy (I know from personal experience), and that may mean employees are leaning towards getting back to the workplace, where a more normal reality awaits.
Or does it?
Meeting New Needs
Companies and managers that are sensitive to the needs of the employees will no doubt be looking at ready-made solutions to separate employees. The old “cubicle” may come back in some form.
You may not be surprised to learn that what works to build a great, easy-to set-up and dismantle exhibit also works to form functional and efficient office dividers, or if you like, office pods. The manufacturer we most often work with, Classic Exhibits in Portland, has been working with architects and space planners for several weeks now to come up with appropriate office dividers at a competitive price.
They’ve even named the product PlaceLyft and have a number of options that range from simple and economical to more complex. Lyft One, Lyft Two, Lyft Three and Custom Solutions. Here at TradeshowGuy Exhibits, we have at least fifteen years of working hand-in-hand with Classic Exhibits, so we know the level of quality and commitment that they bring to any endeavor.
Cleaning the Dividers
Fabric or cloth-covered cubicle walls are difficult to clean. There’s no getting around that. How would that work? Steam-cleaning? Time-consuming and perhaps not that effective. But when faced with cleaning various optional divider materials with these Office Pods, all are easy to clean:
Sintra and Dibond: a clean look available in many color options. You can print to it if you want. Both are easy to clean; just spray and wipe it down.
Grease board (dibond): metal versions as well as standard which you can put magnets on. Available in at least eight standard colors.
Acrylics: available in clear or color. Some of the acrylics are not suitable for frequent cleaning, so the right cleaner is needed. Peroxide based cleaners are best for Acrylics.
These panels have a lot going for them: adjustable wire management, adjustable feet for leveling and running wire underneath, custom heights, option to put a thin panel in the middle of the Gravitee frame for potential sound-proofing, removable fabric graphics that are easily laundered for cleaning and much more.
We have a number of informational sell sheets available on the Office Pods here. Take a look and please contact us for more information if you have questions.
The tradeshow, event and conference industries are not dead. It’s just sleeping. It’ll awaken at some point again and roar to life.
In the meantime, time on your hands. Maybe, maybe not. I certainly have time on my hands. And I have to bring in a little income.
So, I’m driving for Uber Eats and delivering food three to four hours a day. Not bad money, actually, for the time involved. My older son, who’s in his late 20s, had been working as a cook in an upscale restaurant which had to close when the coronavirus restrictions here in Oregon went into place. When we went skiing together a month ago, he told me that he’d been driving for Uber Eats a few hours before he went to work, and then a few hours after he got off in the evening. Now that the restaurant closed, he’s doing it eight hours a day, six or seven days a week. Likes being in his car (it’s new), listening to music, and bringing food to people.
I thought, I can do this. And making a few extra bucks (it’s actually pretty good pay) was enticing. It took a short while to get signed up and approved, and now I’m delivering food from restaurants to people a few hours a day. Sometimes lunch, sometimes dinner.
It gives me a lot of time to think. And listen to rock, or podcasts. But definitely time to think.
And I got to thinking about systems. What kind of systems does it take for an Uber driver (or Door Dash or Grub Hub or any of those companies) to get an offer to drive, accept it, pick up the food and deliver it in a timely manner while it’s still hot?
The driver needs:
Smartphone with app
Address to pickup
Address to deliver
The smartphone has all of those items, other than the car, built in. GPS. Mapping. Internet connectivity.
The customer needs:
An app to order food from
An address for the driver to deliver it to
A way to pay (credit or debit card) they can use through the app
The restaurant needs:
A system that receives incoming orders and gets them to the kitchen in a timely manner
Ability to prepare food quickly and have it ready for pickup within a few moments
As I drive from a restaurant to a drop off point, it’s common to get another offer to pick up another order before the current one is delivered.
During my drives, I keep thinking what an intricate system this is. What an elaborate dance it is to transmit an offer to a driver that’s in the area, about to drop off one order, to deliver another order. As an Uber Eats driver, it’s all optional. Don’t want that one? Don’t take it.
Then I get to thinking about the systems built around tradeshows and events. About what the show organizer needs. What the exhibitor needs. What the visitor needs.
Think about the systems that must be in place for all of that to work to a positive effect on a regular basis. Design and fabrication of tradeshow exhibits. Shipping, setup/dismantle logistics. Travel and lodging. Product development and production.
As a participant, you only can see and control what’s immediately in front of you. But as a tradeshow marketing manager, you can exert a lot of control over how your company exhibits. How your product is presented, how your company is represented by the exhibit and the booth staff. Who sets up the booth, who handles shipping and so on.
Now that the tradeshow and event industry is on hiatus, maybe it’s a good time to examine your systems that hold everything in place from your perspective and see what can be improved.
After all, while I don’t mind driving a few hours a day delivering food, I’d rather get back to the tradeshow world full time soon.
While many of us are working from home, trying to juggle work schedules with kid demands and more, we are looking forward to a time when things return to at least semi-normal. On this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I chatted with Heather Haigler of Switch Four about their new tradeshow management software, WorkTrip – for the remainder of 2020 they are offering free access. Here’s the conversation we had about that and other things that were on our minds:
I’ve been fortunate enough to work from home for almost nine
years. It’s not always easy. Retaining focus and momentum through the day is
one of the hardest things. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years.
You can’t do it all on your own. Even though you work
from home, presumably alone (although you may have family and kids and dogs and
cats with you for the time being), there are still workers and colleagues you
need. Not only to stay connected, but to communicate with regularly so you know
what everyone is doing.
Having a schedule is critical. I block out various times of the day to get things done. Or make sure that on certain days, certain things get done. For instance, in normal times, I block out an hour of prospecting calls four times a week. Client calls are usually around the same time, although knowing that clients might not be as flexible, I often schedule calls early or later in the day. I write, record and produce a podcast late in the week, usually Friday although sometimes it happens on Saturday, and post it first thing on Monday. I try (and usually succeed) to write and post a new blog article on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Take a break. Snack, water, quick walk, get outside.
Hey, you’re at home! You can take a few moments.
Have a start and stop time and do your best to stick to
it. I realize that work-at-home schedules are fraught with influences that
mean you have to be flexible. But if you have guidelines on when to start and
stop, you’ll have a better time keeping on track.
Focus is also critical. If you can’t focus and find
yourself getting on Twitter or Facebook, spend a moment there, then get up and
leave the room. Get away from the computer. Talk with your spouse if they’re
there, or a kid, or just take a break. Think about the most important thing you
should do when you get back in front of the computer. Maybe even the most important
two or three things, write them down, and when you sit down to work after a few
moments, do those things. Put the blinders on, for at least a few moments. Some
people work well with timers, shutting everything out for 20 or 30 minutes.
Others don’t. Find what works best for you to keep focus, which is when you’ll
likely do your best work.
Work when you’re most effective. I tend to like
working best in the morning. After one or two in the afternoon, focus wanes and
effectiveness drops significantly. With my wife not working now because her employer
is closed due to the Coronavirus, I’m getting up a six, doing my morning Yoga routine
while the coffee brews, and then work on my novel for an hour. Then I crank
through the email and any immediate business items. Then it’s a shower and we
walk the dog. Lately the walks have been an hour or more, getting in three or
four miles. Finally, it’s back in the office for more business-related work for
a couple of hours. Some people are not morning people and work better at night.
Whatever works best for you is what you should try to make happen.
With the family home, communication is important. Your spouse may need to work as well, you may have kids that need hands-on attention. Or not. No matter your situation, make sure all parties are clear on your needs, and make sure you’re clear on their needs. It’s not fun to keep butting heads on schedules when a simple discussion and prioritizing of each person’s needs and desires can usually straighten things out.
With the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic, you may be working from home. But it won’t last forever. You’ll get back to the office at some point. Hopefully sooner than later. But in the meantime, get some work done. And have a little fun at the same time.
Natural Products Expo West was postponed and/or cancelled a couple of days before floor doors were to open. I happened to be sitting on the airplane headed to LA for the show when I got the news.
This week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee podcast/vlog is more or less a travelogue of the 6 days I spent in LA and surrounding area, along with a few comments about Natural Products Expo West. I worked with clients to make sure they had return shipping handled and connected with several old friends and relatives.
Take a look/listen:
Show Notes: I mentioned a handful of folks that I encountered during the week.
A week before Natural Products Expo West 2020 was set to open, I got an email from one of the tradeshow exhibit houses handling brands for Unilever, which had several brands at Natural Products Expo West and had acquired one of our clients, Schmidt’s Naturals, a couple of years ago. They had made the decision to pull out of the show due to concerns over the spreading Coronavirus COVID-19.
A day later, another client pulled out. Then another. Then another. By Monday the 2nd, when I was set to fly out to the show from Portland, I had one client out of nine that was still planning on being there. My plane was scheduled to fly out at 5:30. As I sat on the tarmac after boarding, I got an email from the last client that they had decided to pull out. By now, I was seeing on Twitter that as many as 40 – 60% of exhibitors and attendees would probably not show up, making the show a shell of its former self.
Finally, a few moments before wheels lifted, New Hope, the show organizers, sent out an email saying that they had decided to “postpone” the show.
And away we flew.
The next morning, I went to the Anaheim Convention Center with hundreds of other exhibitors and logistics managers to work through the logistics of getting crates shipped back to where they came from. Some crates had made it to the show floor. Some exhibits were already mostly set up.
It took most of the day to track down all the pieces of the clients that had items that needed to be shipped back.
A shoutout to the crew at the GES Service Desk at the Anaheim Convention Center. To a person, they were all cordial, pleasant and extraordinarily helpful.
We all wondered when the event would actually take place. Maybe not until next year?
A Few Thoughts and Questions
I’ve had the chance to speak to several people at the show, along with clients who had to bail or were forced to retrieve crates and packages, clients that had invested in the show with updated exhibits or in some cases, new properties.
No one knows what comes next. Not the exhibitors, not New Hope, which put a positive spin on it, saying “It is our intention to deliver a Natural Products Expo West event before the summer to serve the community, either in Anaheim or a suitable alternative location.”
I don’t see that happening, and neither do most of the exhibitors I spoke with. New Hope is obviously the professional experienced entity that has put on shows for decades. But exhibitors and others are asking where and when such a re-scheduled Expo West 2020 might take place? And if they can find a place that would accommodate the event, how many exhibitors would actually be able to show up, given that companies spend months putting things together to schedule an appearance at a large international show like Natural Products Expo West?
So yes, lots of questions.
But the big one for me is: if they manage to find a location and date that fits, what would change in the situation that would allow the show to go on?
And by situation, I mean the spreading Coronovirus. According to Worldmeter, the virus continues to spread unabated. Experts say we’re a year to a year and a half from having an effective vaccine. Many people seem to still be in fear mode over the spread.
But not everybody. I do believe that the essence of Natural Products Expo West is that, being a food sampling platform, it’s much different from say, a technology tradeshow. Many, if not most, non-food tradeshows are going forward. People still gather by the tens of thousands at events. People still board flights, go to grocery stores.
And the number of those infected keeps increasing, and will likely continue to increase.
Back to the original statement: the underlying situation has not changed, and doesn’t look like it will change in the near future which would allow a rescheduled Expo West to take place “before summer” as New Hope states. Given that, if nothing changes, I don’t see a rescheduled event taking place before mid-June.
In fact, if nothing changes, it’s quite possible the same issues may lead to a postponement or cancellation of Expo East in September in Philadelphia. Yet to be seen, obviously.
If the underlying Coronavirus situation doesn’t change, the only other thing that might change is the attitude and knowledge. We might learn more in the ensuing weeks and months that the virus isn’t as dangerous as the ongoing fear promulgated in lots of big media outlets would have us believe. Company leaders might come to realize that the risk of having their people at a show as either exhibitors or attendees is so low that a prudent decision would have them participating.
Other shows go on with no problem. Will Natural Products Expo West or Expo East continue this year?
Share Experience is a new company formed late last year by Marcus Vahle and John Pugh, both with long experience in the event and tradeshow world. Given what looks to be a unique approach to carving out their niche in the event world, I thought it might be fun to catch up with them for a conversation on this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:
The first time I walked “backstage” at a tradeshow, I realized how nuts it really was. A thousand different things going ten thousand different ways. Thousand of exhibitors, laborers, electricians, forklift operators, scissor lift operators, and so much more are all involved in an elaborate dance that takes place over a few days until opening day when everything looks perfect. Then once the show is over the same crazy dance happens in reverse.
Most people don’t think about what goes on behind the scenes, as long as it happens and their exhibit looks great for the show. But, oh, the things that have to happen for the show to take place.
For this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee, I sat down with Jim Wurm, Executive Director of the Exhibitor Appointed Contractor Association. The EACA is the main organization that advocates for all of those behind-the-scenes companies and employers. And there are a lot of different ones. Really good conversation and yes, I learned quite a bit:
One of the newsletters I read regularly is Electric Impulse, a monthly newsletter from Electric Impulse Communications. I interviewed Leslie Unger, President of Electric Impulse Communications, in March of 2018. In this week’s newsletter, a comment of hers jumped out at me that made me immediately think of the tradeshow world:
The art is in hiding the art and you as the audience don’t see the work behind the curtain.
Leslie Ungar, Electric Impulse Communications
Tradeshows are about presenting your company’s BEST. You
leave almost nothing to chance. An exhibit is carefully planned down to the
last detail. The newest and best products are launched at tradeshows. Booth
staff are either put through formal training or are at least given guidelines
on how to interact with visitors and gather contact information for follow up.
Multiple meetings are held, phone conference calls are scheduled, all to make
sure that the graphics have the right messaging, the right images; to make sure
that the exhibit colors and materials are right for the brand; to ensure that
flooring or hanging signs fit the overall branding scheme.
A lot of damn work goes on behind the curtains.
But visitors don’t see behind the curtains. They don’t see
the months of work that went into the exhibit design and fabrication. They
don’t see the planning that went into handling logistics such as shipping and
installation/dismantle of the exhibit. They don’t see the chaos of the tradeshow
floor during setup and dismantle. They don’t see the challenges that a company
went through to put on their best face, to put their best foot forward at each
and every tradeshow.
Think of it. Each and every tradeshow is like the Land of
Oz. Behind the curtain is the Wizard (or group of Wizards), pulling the levers,
manipulating information and ideas, maneuvering pieces from one place to
another. All done to give each and every visitor an experience or impression
that leaves them with a positive feeling about the company. The best exhibitors
are those that go beyond that, though, and leave their visitors feeling more
than positive. They leave them with a memorable experience that relates
directly to their product. For example, a software demonstration that gives
visitors the empowerment and possibilities that they just didn’t see before,
and now they are leaving feeling creative and inspired. Or a product that they
know they can put to immediate use that will save money and time, freeing up
both resources for other important tasks.
Storytelling in a tradeshow exhibit is an art, a highly developed one. The challenge for each tradeshow exhibitor is to tell their best story with the people and skills on hand. And then to improve on it the next time around.