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An unprecedented Expo in an unprecedented year

Editorial | December 1, 2020 | By:

It’s the day after IFAI Virtual Expo 2020 as I write this editorial—and my feet are blister-free. 

That’s not to say that an in-person Expo wouldn’t have been preferable, but under the circumstances, the industry came together in the only way possible for the conversations, networking and education that are more essential than ever.

The virtual format of IFAI Expo stood out because of a well-designed user interface that made it easy to navigate between educational sessions, exhibits, networking lounges and demonstrations. IFAI staff, education presenters and exhibitors compiled a massive amount of content that attendees could digest at their own pace. And by spreading Expo out over two weeks, attendees didn’t have to make as many choices between live events. 

Need expert advice on the right kind of welding for your business? How and why to set up an ESOP? A better understanding of smart textiles? How to get shade sail design right? IFAI Expo had answers.

Unsurprisingly, one topic seemed to permeate every other conversation—with more unknowns than expertise. Still, Expo provided a platform for discussions about the challenges and opportunities ahead. Amanda Schneider, founder of ThinkLab, told attendees of a Sunbrella®-sponsored session to focus their way out of the chaos. “People are more open minded to change than ever before,” she said. “This is our opportunity to take all those little things that frustrated us … and help to create the next normal that we all want
to be a part of.”

The crisis also presents a unique moment to shape legislation to better support U.S. textile manufacturing. In the final Expo session, Kim Glas, president and CEO of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), said that when the pandemic hit, the textile industry understood that there was a call to service. “Sometimes the textile industry is not seen as a high-tech emerging industry in the U.S.,” she said. “What a great way to change the conversation that
our industry is the leader in providing the solutions that our government, our hospitals, our governors and everyone is needing.” 

The textile industry is essential—and gathering either in person or virtually is essential for the advancement of the industry. See you in Nashville in 2021. Wear comfortable shoes. 

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