Flashback to February 2020, for one of our clients’ TRAVELING trade show tour. Our team is moving from Vancouver, to Calgary, then Montreal to Toronto, meeting with hundreds of association members across the country! We only start hearing COVID-19 on the news towards our last show dates. I know, I know, change the record, but little did we know, this was going to be our last out-province venture for a while…

The Strauss team has since been through the wringer. Twenty months go by without an in-person trade show for any of our clients. Our team worked diligently and tirelessly to discover the virtual world and adapt to the ever-evolving workings of associations and conducting business in general. We transformed the way we worked, the way we communicated, and the way we managed projects. Read Adapting Board Leadership to Challenges of the Pandemic to learn from my colleague about his experience working with association boards virtually.

The Return is Nigh

As vaccines started rolling out across Canada, we started discussing holding in-person events once again, since events are a large portion of Strauss’ business. Read our CEO’s thoughts on the Return to In-Person Events written in August 2021. How much has since changed? Hard to say, but we continue to follow all government guidelines and the safety and comfort of our members will continue to stay top of mind.

We knew we needed to start small in bringing events back to our clients, so we held a small golf gathering in September 2021 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Following all provincial rules and relevant recommendations in my colleague’s article, Hosting Association Golf Tournaments in a COVID-19 World, we were able to hold a long-awaited get-together for association members. They were thrilled to reconnect and to feel “normal” again with their industry colleagues.

The decision to hold our first in-person trade show of 2021 was made in late summer 2021. After consulting with the board, watching vaccination numbers in Ontario, and surveying association members, the bold decision to hold a small, but mighty, trade show in Toronto was finalized. The most jarring part of all of this was not the tight timeline we were all now running on, but the fact that everyone had to relearn how to execute an in-person event!

Written in June 2021 (and given how quickly things change), In-Person Events in a Vaccinated World is a good read for our take on how we planned to return safely to events in a world after COVID-19. Many of these tips and tricks were utilized at our first in-person trade show! Lessons were also learned and adapting to change was key!

The Main Event

As I fumbled around at the crack of dawn to catch the beloved redeye to Toronto, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past year and a half. The change, the uncertainty, the learning, the mistakes, and the triumphs all came flooding through my mind.

It is truly amazing what the Strauss team had accomplished over the COVID-19 pandemic; this team is unstoppable, and clients have been blown away by our response and proactivity throughout it all.

When the time finally came to see members (masked) face-to-face, the joy and excitement from them could not be contained. Exhibiting suppliers were ecstatic to back on that magical show floor, they were thrilled to see their friends, and they were ready to get down to business! Once the show floor opened to attendees, everyone was off to the races.

The positive feedback and kind words from those in attendance was beyond overwhelming; we are still hearing about it 2 weeks later! The biggest compliment that resonated with us was being thanked for having the guts to hold the show. It meant so much for a member to say that to us. Sure, it would have been easier to not have a show, to not worry about COVID-19 protocols and regulations, to not try, but that’s not what we’re about. We are the folks who try, who aren’t afraid, and who will be noticed for doing something that others are too afraid to do. And we did just that with our return to in-person events at Strauss.