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Trade Show Respite
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Trade Show Respite

Blog art cropped

Blog art croppedEric Herman

Back in March, the Western Pool & Spa Show was set to open in Long Beach, Calif., when live events were suddenly and summarily canceled in the state due to the onset of the COVID19 pandemic. It was unsettling, massively inconvenient for everyone involved, and even a little spooky as an unseasonal downpour rolled through the region. At the time no one knew how long such prohibitions would be in place and unfortunately five month later, we still don’t.

We do know that the live trade-show cancellation trend is continuing. In recent days, organizers of the International Pool|Spa|Patio Expo announced that it will be transitioning to a virtual trade show format, meaning the live even scheduled for Las Vegas, Nov. 11-13 will not take place. Instead a full palette of on-line offerings will be available on those same dates in a brave attempt by organizers to make the best of an unprecedentedly bad situation. For more on the EXPO’s novel turn tune into Wolfpack Webinar Wednesday on September 9th and hear directly from show management at Informa.

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That announcement follows the full cancellation of Pool Industry Expo, scheduled for Monterey in September, a much smaller event mostly serving the Northern California pool and spa service industry. None of this is surprising given the ongoing public health crisis. Yet, in some ways where the watershaping industry is concerned, the implications reach beyond the current situation. Here’s what I mean by that:

For starters, the continued closure of all public gatherings, large and small, has forced society at large to adapt by taking as many activities as possible online. Certainly, the watershaping industry with all of its events, marketeers, education and content providers are being forced to come to speed on online delivery platforms. (Watershape University is one strong example.)

I suspect that even when live events do return, the convenience and cost savings of not having to travel will mean that virtual companion events will always be with us, probably far more so than before 2020 happened. The pandemic may have added fuel, but there can be no question we’ve been headed in this direction for a long time.

Fortunately, there’s another grand effect where our industry is concerned. For what amounts to a set of pandemic-specific reasons, pools and spas are experiencing their greatest-ever surge in popularity. Watershapes of all kinds have gone from a luxury to a necessity for many people and industry professionals are busier than they’ve ever been trying to keep up with the demand. One upshot is that many people in the industry wouldn’t have the time to go to trade shows anyway. Yet, at the same time, there is an increased need for education given the ongoing labor shortage and influx of people into the trade that have no experience building pools, spas, hot tubs, fountains, etc. Again, the march to digital delivery grows ever stronger.

And, there’s the nagging impression that our trade shows have become, shall we say, a bit shopworn and overly familiar in recent years. That’s not to say that organizers of these events don’t do their best, but let’s face it, the repetitive and almost ritualistic nature of our industry gatherings has, in my opinion, to some degree diminished the value of attending them.

When you add it all up, maybe this isn’t such a bad time to take a break from trade shows after all? Maybe there’s something to be said for absence making the heart grow fonder. Perhaps when we do return to the show floors and seminar rooms, it will be with renewed interest, vigor and I dare say maybe even a healthy dose of gratitude. I know I’m already missing friends I typically see at shows and champing at the bit to talk to people about what we’re doing at WaterShapes and Watershape University. Perhaps, in a strange way, this current respite from live gathers spells opportunity for future events!

There’s no question we all want life to return to normal as soon as possible, but in the meantime, and we still really don’t know how long that will be, we can find silver linings that might influence the way we do things in the future. It could be that blending online platforms with live events will ultimately result in a richer and more dynamic set of ways to gather information, network and grow professionally. At least, I’d like to think so.

For now, it helps to remember we’re all in this together, even if it’s at a distance.

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