Top Trade Show Industry Leaders Share What They’re Grateful for in 2020

November 25, 2020

Many of us will not be celebrating this year’s Thanksgiving in the same way we’re used to. But while life may not go “back to normal” for quite some time, it’s important to find things to be grateful for to keep our spirits up as we move into the season of giving. Here, event industry leaders share what they’re thankful for this year – professionally and personally – despite one of the most challenging years on record.

David DuBois, president and CEO, IAEE 

“As we begin to make our way into the extended holiday season, I would like to thank everyone in our industry for doing our best to stay positive and work our ways through these difficult times. On a personal note, my wife, Nancy, and I have been blessed to welcome our twin granddaughters into our world this year. We have also added a handsome new male golden retriever puppy into our home (we now have three goldens to enjoy). Stay safe and healthy, and keep the faith.”

Tricia Barglof, executive director, OFFPRICE Show

“During this season of gratitude, I am most thankful for the team I work with every day. Their ability to be flexible and adapt to an ever-changing situation, all while remaining positive and hopeful, has been amazing. With their support, we keep fighting for the events industry and community we so strongly believe in. And given the roller coaster of emotions that 2020 has brought, it sure is nice to have your family and friends to continue to bring joy and laughter to life daily.”

David Audrain, CEO, ExpoDevCo, and Executive Director, SISO

“I am grateful for the great many colleagues and friends in the industry and the wide collaboration from all working together to support the rebuilding for all who depend on it. It would be easier for many to just focus on their own needs; it is the harder path to work together for the wider needs of the industry as a whole. I miss the in-person interactions and look forward to seeing so many people outside of Zoom boxes! I am lucky that my own family has stayed healthy and is dealing with this crisis one day at a time. My partner and I count a lot on each other, and it would definitely have been so much harder if Stephanie and I were not business partners as well as spouses.”

Dahlia El Gazzar, founder, DAHLIA+Agency

“I am grateful for my tribe. My mom passed away a month and half ago, and it threw me in a whirlwind, to say the least. My team and my D+tribe were right at my side the whole time. In the midst of this ‘corona-coaster’ and of producing virtual events, presentations, sales pitches and also family and virtual schooling, they surrounded me and lifted me up. They told me to go take care of me and of family and never skipped a beat. I’m grateful for my family, team and partners who gave me the support I needed to take care of family, grief and with empathy and compassion. People are going through loss, grief and the sense of loss in one shape or form. Surround them with empathy and it’ll come back to you tenfold.”

RD Whitney, CEO, 365 Media, and Co-founder, Virtual Events Institute

“I am thankful for the incredible innovation, determination and transformation taking place in our industry because of the pandemic. While unforgiving to those that just want things to go back to how things were, not being able to run live events has been like a slingshot into the future for the events industry and for the entrepreneurial spirit of our profession. We have awoken to the need, opportunity and privilege to be managers of communities, rather than just event organizers. We can and will come back stronger with greater opportunity, and we can be in the center of exciting and lucrative buyer/seller opportunities through the strength of these emerging online and face-to-face communities. I am thankful for an amazing network of inspiring individuals clearing this new path forward. Oh, and beer…I am grateful for beer.”

Dana Freker Doody, vice president, Communications and Public Relations, The Expo Group 

“I am grateful to 2020 first for teaching me to be a better cook. I am also thankful for how the events of this year – from the pandemic to social unrest to the election – further proved the education, ideas, commerce and connections created at events and trade shows are vital to humankind.”

Rip Rippetoe, president and CEO, San Diego Convention Center

“I am grateful for the love my family and I have for each other, for the opportunity to serve in the event/venue industry as a mentor and a leader, and for the passion of my co-workers and their constant display of compassion for their fellow team members. I am grateful to have been the leader of an organization who opened their doors to our community’s most vulnerable and became the largest homeless shelter for a time in the U.S., and for the kind words our customers provide us as a result of our efforts to recover and to serve.” 

Amy Calvert, CEO, Events Industry Council

“I’m grateful for the support and leadership of our council, team and volunteer core – such an amazing group of thoughtful and dedicated professionals. Our committees are contributing to our mission and purpose at a critical time for our industry and to support our workforce. It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career to see these leaders connect and share not only their expertise but also their own stories of personal and professional challenges with their peers. That vulnerability has allowed us as an industry to have some really open and honest conversation about what needs to change and what we can do to turn our vision into meaningful action. And personally, as my children become young adults, I am inspired by their warmth, humor and wisdom beyond their years. We have a lot of fun together. I am also thankful that I have two dogs, Ash and Scooby, who take my attention away from the reality that I will soon be an empty nester.”

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Partner Voices

As event professionals and destinations adjust, adapt and evolve in these uncharted waters, it is imperative that substantial resources be put in place for all of the people responsible for planning and executing trade shows, expositions and conventions. An example is Mohegan Sun, which built an industry-leading, COVID-19 Resource Center with a combination of pictures from recently held successful events (the property reopened on May 1, 2020) along with several widely available and informative documents, such as an evolving operational framework: