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A New Normal

garyOn September 11th, 2001, those of us in the tradeshow industry were going about the start of our typical day.

At the same time, 19 men proceeded to implement an evil scheme that changed our circumstances. A seemingly humdrum day in life, a day just like any other day – what could be called a Normal Day.

With all respect for the tremendous loss of life continuing even today, the seeds of a new normal that were already planted, along with the positive collective traits of our culture, were awakened.

I often ask others where they were on 9-11-01 simply because I remember it very clearly and the one truly bizarre thing about it is how normal the day itself was. From the perceived safety of my office at Optima Graphics, it clearly began as such but would not end that way.

Normal today is the enormous reality of wars, scary economic challenges and even mundane changes like dealing with TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and their often-judged, imperfect, sometimes ridiculed and highly criticized agents. TSA didn’t exist in 2001. But today, TSA is as normal as traveling with small samples of personal hygiene items or expecting to be protected by those we complain about. Taking your belt and shoes off at the airport would have likely had you arrested in August of 2001 but today people just casually go about redressing in front of perfect strangers then head off to catch their flights. Clever people devise ways to circumvent these requirements and even more opportunistic types find ways to charge us to avoid them.

911The tragic series of events continues to have impact on us and the entire world as we struggle to maintain and yes, improve our way of life. One of the many little slices of the world that changed after the awful events of that day was the tradeshow world.

It was no secret that the tradeshow industry suffered. After a long period of what appeared to be never-ending growth sales went flat or disappeared completely. Optima maintained a presence mostly on the orders of new, must-have graphics to existing displays. Eventually, the tide turned and we went back into a period of growth that proves our industry’s value and resilience. People in business have an overwhelming need to meet face-to-face. This tradeshow lifer’s observation: now-a-days we are all more thankful of our business partnerships and much, much, much happier to see each other!

As we look back 13 years, I pose two questions to all of you:

Where were you on 9-11-01?

And as we define normalcy in 2014, what changes to the tradeshow industry have you witnessed?

About the Author
Gary Camarato is the Vice President of Marketing & Creative Development at Optima™ and has been in the Trade Show industry since 1992.

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