by Kahle Williams

On July 24, 2020, the Together Again Expo took place at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. It was one of the first in-person trade shows in the U.S. in a long while. CompuSystems had a booth there, and I was joined by two of my co-workers. I’m not going to lie, I had concerns about participating due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Florida. Here’s how it actually went (plus my takeaways at the end):

The flight

I got to O’Hare airport an hour and a half before my flight. It wasn’t as crowded as normal but busier than I expected given the circumstances. I boarded the plane and was happy to learn that United Airlines is keeping its middle seats open. Other than an emptier than normal flight, the only real difference was the smell of hand sanitizer (United gives out free disinfectant wipes) that subsided after about 10 minutes and a face mask requirement. I was a bit surprised that there were no temperature checks at the airport or on the plane.

The hotel

We landed, grabbed an Uber, and headed to the Orlando Hilton to check in to our rooms. I was told by the hotel receptionist, who was behind a plexiglass shield, that there were a few COVID-19 restrictions that is, face masks must be worn in the common areas at all times, and the once-standard daily room cleaning service must be requested. That was it. The gym and pool were both open but with some minor restrictions. My room was extremely clean and I felt completely safe and comfortable.

Exhibitor move-in

There was nothing out of the ordinary except for the mandatory face mask requirement and temperature check before entering the convention hall, both of which we expected. What we didn’t expect is how uncomfortable it can be to set up a booth wearing a face mask in a hot and humid conventional hall on a 93-degree day in Florida, but we managed. After we finished setting up our booth, we called an Uber and went out for sushi at one of our favorite restaurants in the area. Face masks were mandatory in the common areas of the restaurant but not in the dining areas. We found that most restaurants in Orlando were open for business.

Opening day

I can’t tell you how excited we were to see a trade show floor with people mingling and taking in sessions. Everyone I talked to was upbeat and so ready to get back to business. There were lots of interesting face masks of all colors, shapes, and sizes, and the chairs in the session area were placed 6 feet apart for social distancing. Other than that, it looked and felt like a regular trade show. Many of the booths featured interesting new products and services to help people feel safer as they start going to trade shows again. 

For the first trade show back, the turnout was phenomenal. I’m proud of everyone who participated and wanted to thank Alliance Nationwide Exposition, the producers of this amazing event, the Orange County Convention Center, and all the Sponsors that helped make this possible. One day we will look back and realize that this event was instrumental in getting our wonderful industry back up and running.

My takeaways

• Traveling and participating in trade shows with COVID-19 restrictions is only minorly inconvenient

• It feels amazing to get out and do all the things I used to do pre-COVID-19

• Overwhelmingly, people are ready to get back to going to trade shows

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