50 Days of Gray

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Fifty days ago was March 11, 2020. It was the day when the tallied number of COVID-19 cases crossed 1,000, the NBA’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus and the league suspended all activities, and lastly, President Trump announced the European travel ban. After that day, everything seemed to change in a very rapid way both personally and professionally for nearly all of us. Now, fifty days later we’ve spent weeks managing through a gray period of both short and long-term unknowns.

I say this is a gray period because it is different than it was before March 11, and one day (hopefully soon) it will be different than it is now. So we’re currently navigating the gray area in between. I do not accept a “new normal” after this period that brings more permanence to the current situation, but instead look to an enhanced version of what was before all of this. We’ll have a combination of what we liked before with tweaks based on some things that ended up working well during our gray period.

As I tap away on my keyboard sitting in the fresh air of my screened-in porch, looking at my kids through the door, I recognize that we’ve all had to adapt to a new work environment throughout the gray period. I’ve taken calls and emails all over my home and neighborhood, all through a variety of activities. As we’ve all been, I have been inundated with virtual meetings and conference calls. Through this I’ve realized personally and through conversation with others that the desire is not for this to replace all in-person interaction in the long run. It feels like a gap-filler, making do. People are clamoring to get back into their offices. I’m sure the future will blend more telework, but it seems to have cemented that we desire to move about and engage real people as opposed to operating our full lives from a single room or location.

The world in which most of our business at FrontLine Exhibits lives, trade shows and events, was already feeling the effects of COVID and cancellations were mounting prior, but after March 11 whatever remained was stopped indefinitely. Our industry had to react to the gray period as well, and find the opportunities that exist in this unprecedented time. The producers of printed fabric graphics turning into mask producers, the rigid panels being converted to cough barriers and face shields, and the structure producers cranking out temporary rooms to the healthcare industry for testing and treating patients. Even some of the large convention centers converted to overflow medical facilities. The industry stopped business as usual for what would be the busiest time of year, retooled and quickly met the needs of the day. I can assure you though, everyone in this area is ready to get back to the displays, graphics and exhibits we do best.

After watching, from a safe distance of course, all people go through a range of emotions the past 50 days, it appears people are ready to start to focus on how to safely return to a life more closely resembling the time before the gray period. Optimism is growing and there seems to be an eagerness to start being around people again. Speaking personally though I’m sure others share this sentiment, I want to travel more than ever now. Combining that with the lost business opportunities over the gray period, I see desire for the return of trade shows and events. So as the restrictions begin to loosen across the country, and we get closer to the day we can get our hair cut again, I’m hopeful that although it may take awhile the other side of gray will bring about better days. My best to everyone reading this blog, I hope you and yours have been able to manage through this well and I look forward to serving you all in the coming days/weeks/months/years!