Jeannie Wert, HCEA President

Working in the exhibit industry is not for everyone; you either love it or hate it and usually you know this by the conclusion of your first show.   I fall into the first category; I have loved this business from the very beginning.

It was my first show installation that did it for me and it remains my favorite part of the job to this day.  As my responsibilities have broadened and diversified over time, this is a task that now typically falls to my team, and I truly miss it.  I would liken it to an old-fashioned barn raising.  A community comes together to get a complex job done in a condensed period of time (Afterall, Bessie needs a roof over her head by night fall).  Blood, sweat and tears are often literally involved, along with laughter, lots of yelling and the occasional name calling- like one giant very noisy family. Despite our differences, we all come together to realize a common goal (end of show- am I right?) while hopefully getting there in one relative piece.  On site, and especially during install, we see each other at our absolute best and our absolute worst.  There’s a uniquely extraordinary comradery that comes from that.

Effectively, and perhaps not dissimilar to some of you, I have more or less grown up in this business.  The work family I have cultivated has been by my side as I got married, as my daughters were born, when my mom died, as I go through divorce. They know my kids, that my dog barks (a lot), that I frequently make calls from the car because that’s when I have free time (lately that’s outside on my porch) and that I consume a ridiculous amount of coffee.  As we navigate the realities of life during COVID-19, they have checked in on me and I them.  We stand by one another, like family does in times of crisis.

I read a blog post recently where someone compared COVID-19 to a flood and that while we are all in the flood together, we are not necessarily in the same boat.  It’s such a great analogy.  We are all experiencing this together, but we are not having the same experience.   The live events industry was hit first, and it will be a struggle to recover.  Some of us won’t and conversely, some of us find ourselves busier than we ever have been.  However, we are all asking the same question and it’s an important one: when we will get back to doing what we love and the family that we miss?

First and foremost, I do believe it is a matter of when and not if.  At the same time, I am struggling with this ever-moving point on the horizon.  When you thrive in a highly planned, deadline driven environment, it’s like walking a tight rope without a tether… in a windstorm… with a blindfold.  Are we there yet?  Sadly, I don’t think so, but I wish we were, and I hope we will be soon. There’s a lot of discussion and ideation across the industry of how that might work and what that might look like.  We all have a role to play in that journey and I know that we will get there faster if we work together.   I cannot think of a better community to rise to the occasion.  It’s one that has already done so,  in so many ways.  Aren’t we at our best when we are working together to solve the impossible, under a deadline, and no budget?  I think so…

To my work family and this industry that I love: I can’t wait to get there soon and see you on the show floor.  Until then – stay safe, stay well.