There has been very little to like about the year 2020. One of the latest disappointments, especially for Review readers, is the cancellation of the in-person IFAI Expo set for November. On top of all the education and new products and networking that industry members look forward to, Expo 2020 was supposed to be a celebration—the 100th show. The first conference was held in 1918 in Detroit, but the show was cancelled twice during WWII, making 2020 the centennial event.
However, unlike our 20th century predecessors, we can still gather. IFAI staff members are working tirelessly to prepare a virtual event with the same objectives as the in-person event. And amid an unprecedented pandemic and the subsequent economic fallout, these objectives are more important than ever.
In one of the first IFAI webinars hosted after the start of the pandemic, IFAI Expo 2019 keynote speaker Thom Singer spoke about the need to keep in frequent communication with all of the stakeholders in your business—your employees, your suppliers and your customers. While we may be physically distancing, he said, we need to be socially tightening.
Many industry members report that they are surviving and thriving in this crisis because of long-term relationships. “Without our supplier in South Korea, who we had worked with for close to 20 years, there would have been no way in the world we could have filled elastic orders,” says Coleman Conneely, an owner of Granat Industries Inc. Partnerships like these develop over years of doing business with one another, and they are nurtured through the networking—the social tightening—that happens at trade shows such as IFAI Expo.
For me, there has been one bright spot among the changes the pandemic brought about. Normally, the pages of Review are filled with photos of the latest and greatest fabrics, equipment and end products. But since March, our sources have also been sending us photos of the people behind those products and services—the sewers and welders and warehouse employees and shipping crews who are performing essential work for their companies and the country. Just as with suppliers and customers, relationships with employees are key to sustaining the industry.
I look forward to socially tightening with you at virtual IFAI Expo 2020!