And now for something completely different

IMG_0170RETOUCHEDDennis M Sharland, CEM

I have been attending IAEE’s ExpoExpo for 10 years now and every year I have been fortunate enough to be able to take in the entirety of the event. It’s always been somewhat leisurely. I could show up the day it opens or the day before, get my badge and attendee bag and then proceed to have more choices what to do than I knew what to do with. Everything was available to me; all of the educational sessions, all of the networking functions, all of the vendor hospitality functions. The plethora of quality options is one of the aspects of ExpoExpo that I have always thoroughly enjoyed.

This year though was different. A perfect storm of circumstances including preparing for a trip to China to teach two CEM classes made it such that I would only have one day at Expo Expo. Oh, and to top it off myself and three colleagues were actually trying to shop for a registration company while we were there so we had several prearranged appointments to keep as well. So, how do you do what is normally a full three day event in just one jam-packed day ?

Prioritization. If I was going to not only survive the day but make the most of it I was going to absolutely have to prioritize. What is most important this time around ?

Obviously the number one priority is the appointments with the registration companies. Four appointments at 20-40 minutes each… This was the easy one.

So what’s to be next ? Should I spend the time in the exhibit hall, seeing what new, cool and innovative products our industry partners have brought or should I try and squeeze in a class ?

The initial part of the decision was made for me in that the pre-booked appointments with perspective registration companies were not back to back to back. This allowed me some blocks of time between appointments where I could eventually make my way all the way through the exhibit hall, albeit in a somewhat disjointed fashion; an aisle here, two and a half aisles there. While I was able to traverse the entirety of the hall, it felt rushed and I don’t feel like I really saw all that was available.

By the time I was through making my way up and down the aisles it was almost time for the hall to close. I would have been through a little earlier but I was fortunate enough to keep running into those people that you hope you will run into at ExpoExpo; former colleagues, and those you’ve taken classes or done business with. This is one of my favorite parts of ExpoExpo, reconnecting with those you haven’t seen in six weeks or six months or since the last iteration of ExpoExpo. For me, the networking and social interaction is just as important as the first rate educational opportunities that ExpoExpo has to offer. Who’s moved up ? Who’s looking to move on ? Who’s just moved across the country for a new adventure? And sadly sometimes it’s ‘who’s no longer with us ?’.

The hall is now closed, so what’s next ? It’s about an hour and a half to two hours until the earliest of the exhibitor hospitality functions start and there are classes starting in 15 minutes. Three options for classes to consider: “Convention Center and Hotel Contracts” ? (been there, done that)  “Exhibitions Mean Business – What IAEE is Doing to Support Your Industry” and “Wi-Fi Expectations, Bandwidth, and Regulations”. While I ponder these options I spy some friends sitting on what appear to be some very comfy couches in the registration area. I sit (my feet required a much needed rest – did I mention I started my day two hours before the exhibit hall opened doing a site visit next door at the Hyatt  and had been on the move ever sense?) and visit with my friends exchanging ‘how-have-you-beens ?’ and ‘what-exhibitor-parties-are-you-going-tos ?’ . Before I know it forty minutes has passed and the classes have started and I’m not one to walk into a class that late. All is not lost as in the midst of sitting and visiting I make some new acquaintances and I am invited to come along to another hospitality event that wasn’t on my radar. Perfect! What could be better than a refreshing adult beverage with some new friends ?

Before too long it’s time to part company with my new friends and make my way to the one and only exhibitor party I have committed to and that is one being thrown by my general service contractor. While part of me really wants to hop in the car and start the 63 mile drive to Virginia (I’m tired and still need to finish packing for a weeklong adventure in China) the rest of me really wants to go since I know there will be people there that I don’t see near often enough. Some I’ve only known a couple years but have become very fond of in that short time. Some I have known my entire trade show career and I am fortunate to still see them once or twice a year and there are some who while I do see them fairly regularly, have become like family whose company I will enjoy whenever I can.

So, ExpoExpo in one day… Is it possible ? Well, kind of; you would most likely lose out on one or more of the aspects that make ExpoExpo so worthwhile like the education or the exhibits or the networking. Would I recommend it ? Nope; not even if you paid me.

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