With the blows experienced by the trade show, conference, meetings, and events industry from COVID-19, so many of us have lost our shows and our jobs… either temporarily shut down or closed for good.  I guess we have all been affected by this crazy pandemic.  We know somehow the industry will manage to survive, but in the meantime, we are all in a state of flux and uncertain about our future.

In my case, both of my association clients closed their events for the foreseeable future.  My international conference client has moved completely virtual through at least 2022, canceling future conference dates in Germany (Hamburg, 2021) as well as the U.S. (Portland, 2020).  My trade show client cancelled their 2020 expo and convention, possibly not re-opening until 2022 (though October 2021 is under consideration, albeit on a much smaller scale).

I was fortunate to get a call from an old friend and former sponsor from one of my events (Proteus On-Demand Facilities sponsored the International Disaster Conference & Expo I launched in New Orleans in 2012… now owned by the New Orleans Convention Center and known as RES-CON).  John reached out because he had just purchased the assets and good will from Proteus and was bringing the business back to market as FLEXTC (they provide tents, temporary structures, modular structures, and extended-term facilities that can be quickly deployed anywhere in the world, serving a number of industries).

Proteus sponsored IDCE due to their presence in the disaster response and recovery sector, providing structures and services for base camps, including sleeping tents, beds, showers and toilets, kitchens, flooring, temporary roadways, water service, electricity / power generators, HVAC systems, etc.  Given the activity with hurricanes and other emergencies this year, I would say it’s safe to say there is an increasing demand for what they provide.

However, John noted that they also wanted to expand their footprint in the events sector.  I was a bit stunned since the event market is currently dead.  His comments made me think, and made sense!

As events begin to slowly return (which they will), there will be an increased need for more space due to social distancing and the requirement to create safe environments.  Events will want more options to utilize outdoor space.  Convention Centers and Event Organizers will want to find ways to convert current unusable space into prime event space.  Facilities will need shelter options for longer ingress lines due to physical distancing as well as to provide shelter for processing and testing attendees (temperature scanning, for example).  Temporary structure systems could be used to present sanitation stations and isolation booths for guests.   Outdoor events can use high-end structure to create suites and VIP terraces for small groups, providing special views of events.  As a trade show and conference manager with additional experience on the facility management side, I can see the applications of temporary structures meeting the needs for the next generation of events in the post COVID-19 world. (Sidebar: To all of my event industry friends and contacts, I would love your feedback and thoughts regarding the need to consider space expansion, outdoor options, and ingress practices as shows and facilities re-open.  Should be a good discussion.)

John asked if I had interest in jumping on board.  Given my background in both event production and emergency management (though IDCE), as well as considering the application of the skill I have developed in the trade show world to his company needs, I decided to join his team. I am now working with FLEXTC managing business development which includes sales, marketing, communications, and public relations.  (As such, you will probably be noticing information from me via social media regarding industry news / events which are associated with temporary structures as well as disaster response recovery, trade shows and conventions, convention center facility expansions, sporting event hospitality suites, stadium embellishment suites, long-term structure expansion, etc.  Now you know why.)

My point:  As the pandemic continues to stifle the events industry, we still need to work.  As shows and events slowly return, it will be quite some time before the industry returns to the size and scope it presented pre-pandemic.   With minimal opportunities available in the industry for the foreseeable future, ALL of us need to realize that we have transferrable skills and experience that can be applied to other industries. I’m not advocating jumping ship from the trade show and events industry.  It will return!  But it can’t hurt to have employment in the meantime. And YOUR SKILLS ARE IN DEMAND!!!

In my case, I was fortunate due to my experience in the markets FLEXTC is serving.  But it goes a bit deeper than this.  Skills are learned behaviors and abilities.  As show pros, we have unique experiences and have developed a combination of many skills that can be applied to other industries.  Each of us need to do a self-assessment, identify these unique transferrable skills, and determine how to align them with the opportunities that are there.  What are our core competencies that our event experience has developed?  Examples –

  • Action-Oriented
  • Approachability
  • Ability to Multi-Task
  • Abstract Thinking
  • Accountability
  • Attention to Detail
  • Creativity & Innovation
  • Customer Service
  • Conflict Management
  • Financial Management
  • Leveraging Diversity
  • Political Savvy
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Strategic Agility
  • Strong Communication Skills
  • Strong Interpersonal Communication Skills
  • Team Building
  • Vision

We are all fortunate to have the skills we possess and have the trade show world to thank for them.  Think outside of the box to see where your skills can be applied until our industry returns.  Then present your unique skill set as the solution to these opportunities.  Not many other candidates will possess what we possess, nor realize how to bundle and apply these learned and developed skill sets for new environments.  As trade show pros, we get it.  The needs we meet change from show to show… from event to event.  We are the most nimble and possess the most agility.   We prove it time and time again.  We are a unique resource.  As such, we are a unique solution.

Though I am “all in” with my new opportunity, I will stay as active as possible in the events industry, continuing to assist clients on a limited basis as they review options for re-opening their event in either 2021 or 2022.  Once the industry returns, I hope to as well.

Hang in there industry friends.  We will get through this crazy time… and will all be better for it.  And if you have a need for our tents, structures, or services, SHOUT MY WAY!   You can find more information on what we do on our website – https://flextc.com.  (Yes… since I am running marketing & communications, I did build this website).

Stay safe!

Jimmy