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Bloomin’ In-Person

Bloomin’ In-Person

This article is about the continued importance of face-to-face engagement and the value of devoting time to giving back to an industry.

We all know the song:

‘If I ruled the world, 

Every day would be the first day of spring…’

And this spring was especially important because it marked the return of in-person trade shows and networking after a two-year period where only a handful of events went ahead under strict Covid protocols and social distancing measures. Most expos were cancelled, others went online, and those that did take place felt a bit forced.

Springtime

It has been good to get back together this spring.

Having attended numerous events across the U.S. (MHI’s MODEX in Atlanta and AWRF’s meeting in Houston were probably the major two) three things stood out:

  1. Covid pre-qualifies a delegation
  2. In-person is back
  3. It’s smart to give time back to your industry

Covid pre-qualifies a delegation

As you walk the aisles of a show or sit down at a committee meeting, there is always someone with a furrowed brow that has it written all over their face that they’d rather not be there. There are also those that don’t participate fully and spend much of the time on their laptop or cell phone.

I think Covid has purified events to some extent. The pandemic has presented an excuse for those not willing to travel, meaning the delegations I’ve been part of have felt more vibrant and positive than ever before. Even where individuals have experienced anxiety for health reasons, there have been ways to take part safely behind masks, if that’s what made them feel comfortable.

Covid test

There has been a lot of positive face-to-face engagement, despite Covid.

In-person is back

I never gave much thought to face-to-face activities never returning. I know that there were many who suggested we’d continue to engage virtually via video call even once restrictions were lifted, but I didn’t agree. While video conferencing has its place and it makes sense sometimes to save the cost of a flight and hotel, you can’t replace the serendipity of in-person networking, neither can you touch and feel equipment, or give an old friend a hug.

  • We’ve had smartphones for as long as most of us can remember but that never stopped us from boarding a plane, did it?

I was talking to one of our vendors—Steve Napieralski, president at OZ Lifting—about this and he said this spring’s event season has delivered the best in-person networking and engagement we’ve arguably ever experienced. I agree. Some people are shaking hands for the first time in two years at events even as I write, and they’ve missed it. We forget that business associates become good friends and as I caught up with those that I last saw in 2020, I realized that their children were now two years older and the son or daughter at college was now working. Some treated Covid as an opportunity to get fit and others looked a bit fuller in the face. Regardless, it was a real treat to see everyone again.

The product fairs I visited only reinforced the importance of getting back together again. It’s one thing to watch a video on YouTube about the capabilities of a product or look through a spec sheet and check the likelihood that a tool will do the job, but it doesn’t come close to picking up, say, a hoist or pressing the buttons on a control pad. You can read that Steve’s new Dyno-Hoist (coming soon to this store), weighs 16.5, 27.94, 45.1, 66, and 96.80 lbs. in order of capacity, but what does that mean? How does that steel handle with rubber grip sit in the hand?

OZ Lifting

OZ Lifting is just one FAD Equipment Store vendor enjoying the spring trade show season.

One of my favorite questions from this spring’s meetings has been, “Have you met…?” I was hardly asked this during the pandemic years because every meeting and call was fixed up days, weeks, even months in advance. And if someone wasn’t on a video call, you couldn’t meet or introduce them. On countless occasions recently, I’ve been having a conversation with one person only for someone else to walk past and be drawn in because they knew another member of the group. I too have tapped on shoulders and connected acquaintances with those I feel they have a personal or professional avenue of mutual opportunity to explore together. This kind of thing makes the wheels turn that much faster and it’s rewarding to listen to two guys or gals start to hit it off and compare notes.

It’s smart to give time back to your industry

It was Theodore Roosevelt who first said it: “Every man [or woman] owes a part of his [or her] time and money to the business or industry in which he [or she] is engaged”.

Every industry has a trade association that serves to raise a group of product suppliers or those with collective interests. These bodies can’t function unless stakeholders from those sectors give their time and therefore money to sitting around a table, often with competitors, to work on raising safety, standards, or best practices. A rising tide lifts all boats, as they say. By elevating an entire industry, that positivity is felt at individual businesses too.

Meeting

In-person meetings are back—and here to stay.

It’s amazing how many companies still stay on the outside as their peers work to raise the profile of a marketplace. Too many are worried about spending time with competition or demand that every single dollar spent is immediately met with five bucks in return. It’s not about that. Of course, if you spend money on membership in a trade group, then send multiple staff to spring and fall meetings, there is a financial burden to carry that won’t immediately be repaid. But over time, as involvement leads to improvement of best practices, or recognition as a market’s key player, the return will be abundant. That’s why businesses that participate in these dealings, typically never stop doing so.

It’s especially important to sit on boards and committees these days because many problems are shared, and change is so rapid. It helps CFOs to sit with other CFOs and CEOs to sit with other CEOs, as the hot topics of the day—Ukraine, pandemic, costs, logistics, skills shortages, etc.—are discussed and battle plans drawn up. Where one company has a problem, another might have a solution and vice versa.

AWRF

Attendees at a recent AWRF event enjoy an opening night cocktail.

It is clear therefore that it is important to embrace face-to-face engagement and recognize the value of devoting time to giving back to an industry.

How are you harnessing the opportunities presented by a post-pandemic world?

  • By Richard Howes, VP Marketing & Communications at FAD Equipment Store
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