The past few weeks have caused me to think a lot about ‘experiences’ both professional and personal.
Personally, the past few weeks have reminded me of how vital experiences with my friends and loved ones are, they are the fuel that really drives me daily. Be it the daily experience of going to OTF for a workout, a weekend dinner with friends, a visit to a live music venue to listen to one of my favorite artists (or one I have never heard of) or most of all to Camden Yards or Nats Park to see a baseball game. All of these are missing from my life at this time, and it hurts. As I write this and look around my office, it is not a huge leap to see what brings me joy. It is the baseball that I caught while at a game with my kids years ago, it is the pictures of trips with family and friends, it is the Orioles jersey given to me by the PCMA Capital Chapter with the number 18 on it to commemorate my year as President of the Chapter. While these mementos are things, the depth of what they mean to me is rooted in the experience that occurred by being immersed at the moment and experiencing the moment with all of your senses. It was about sharing the experience with other people, some you knew, some you didn’t, and some who became friends.
This brings me to the other experiences, those that are my entire professional world, and have been since graduating college…they have unfortunately come to grinding halt. It hurts on so many levels, and it is scary and concerning. My life revolves around face to face experiences where people meet, talk, and literally see eye to eye. However, when I think about those personal experiences that have historically brought me so much joy and happiness, I feel positive about the future for trade shows and events. There is not a single experience I mentioned as missing personally that can be replaced by a virtual (I.E., non-face to face) experience over an extended period. Yes, virtual events can help us as an industry stay connected and engaged as we work thought the current situation, they can temporarily fill the gap to some extent. When we get back to normal, I would even argue that there is a place for virtual in expanding the life cycle of the great things that happen at live events. They can complement the experience by potentially preparing you for it before you go allowing you to get more out of the live experience, and they can certainly provide a means of extending the experience. However, it is my conviction and belief they will never replace the actual face to face experience as the principal means of engagement. Because of this, I know that trade shows and events will once again become a catalyst for commerce and our economy. Our industry provides meaningful employment that offers a gateway for bringing buyers and sellers together in an environment where meaningful relationships can be fostered through experiences, education, and engagement that build trust and rapport. That is why face to face matters.
Am I going to watch baseball on T.V. when it returns, yes. Am I going to Camden Yards when baseball returns and stop at Pickles Pub before the game, get a sandwich from Boog’s BBQ during the game and talk to the stranger sitting next to me at the game and offer them some peanuts, HELL YES…because that is the authentic EXPERIENCE of a live event that could never be matched virtually?