COVID-19 Impact on EventsThis year’s Exhibitions Day took on a new format and significance in the middle of a global pandemic. Much like every other in-person event, this year’s advocacy efforts were forced to be online and virtual because of COVID-19.

Last year, more than 100 individuals (including myself) spent the day in Washington, DC walking the halls of congress, advocating to lawmakers and policy influencers to the importance and economic impact of the events and tradeshow industries.

Local Impact

It is staggering to think that B2B events contributed 101 billion dollars to U.S. GDP in 2019, according to IAEE. In Maryland alone (my home and home of Personify’s Columbia, MD office), there were 303 B2B events with 991K attendees. If you combine the areas of Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, we collectively had 716 tradeshows with 5.9 million visiting attendees.

Rich Vallaster on Capitol Hill 2019

Rich Vallaster on Capitol Hill 2019

Capitol Hill Experiences

I have always approached this day with such excitement. Part of it is to see so many colleagues who fly in from all over the country. The other is feeling as if my own efforts can make a difference and be part of the solution to move the industry forward. Walking the halls of where our country’s most significant decisions are made is such a rush. Last year, my group even got a chance opportunity to ride the subway underneath the Capitol and watch a bill being passed live on the house floor by a special invite.

This year was different. I know so many industry colleagues and friends directly impacted by layoffs and furloughs. I have watched our clients agonize over the decision to cancel or postpone their events. In just a little over three months, 1.6 million exhibitors and 286 billion dollars of impact has been felt. As I studied the issues, I realized now more than ever, my efforts were needed for my friends, for our clients and the industry.

Virtual Experience

Like many other virtual events, we all worked to learn a new platform and turned on our webcams to connect face-to-face. We did virtual yoga and

Exhibitions Day Live Stream Screen Shot

attended an education session on bourbon from Louisville (the host city for this year’s IAEE Expo! Expo!). We struggled to unmute and enjoyed seeing other pets, family and even their office backgrounds.

With a record-breaking 1,600 registrants, it was reaffirming that the positive spirit and drive to move forward will help the industry grow. This year’s theme of “exhibitions are key to rebuilding economies” was evident as lawmakers around the country connected and interacted with us as they realize the financial impact and jobs tied to our industry and their desire to see a return to normal.

So, as we move forward, I encourage everyone in the industry to continue the efforts to advocate locally, nationally, and internationally to support this vibrant and critical component to our world’s economies. You can also watch the day’s recap video here.

I look forward to being back on Capitol Hill next year!