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Somewhere along the road back from Boston, DSN publisher Wayne Bennett and I looked at each other and realized that the previous 24 hours or so had been some of the most productive time we had enjoyed at a trade show in quite a while. To be honest, that’s not exactly what we had expected when we headed to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Pharmacy and Technology Conference a day earlier. Hurricane Irene — which had already dampened our travel plans — also had dampened our expectations.
Wayne’s house in Long Island is less than a half-mile away from one of the evacuation zones. For me, the flip side of being one of the few people in Manhattan with his own backyard is that I live on the ground floor, so I also am one of the few people in Manhattan in danger of floodwaters rising into my living room.
But once Irene blew by us, we decided to make the short drive to Boston to catch the last couple days of the show. And I’m glad that we did. We got a lot accomplished.
Now, I’m not going to pretend that the show broke new attendance records any more than I would write that the Convention Fairy visited every booth each night and left little magical sacks full of cash for everybody. Some people didn’t make it to Boston because of the weather; it’s not a three-hour drive for everybody. A small number of booths were empty.
But that wasn’t the vibe at the show. And that’s really amazing because I will tell you as a cynical journalist who has been to a lot of trade shows that even when the weather is great and everybody shows up, the squeaky wheels ALWAYS find a reason to complain about something. But this time the focus was on who WAS there versus who WASN’T there.
Maybe it’s because the flip side of having a couple of cancellations on your schedule is that it gives you an opportunity to take the conversations you are able to have a little deeper than you normally could in the span of the typical 30-minute trade show meeting. Some of the things you normally might have to wait for in the show’s follow-up you’re able to address right there on the show floor. That can change the way you measure the return on investment of attending a conference.
Taken individually, things like the decision to add shuttle buses to and from the convention hotels and going casual for the closing reception is really little stuff. But on the flip side, the mindset that drives those decisions — the mission to keep the focus on its members, to keep the focus on the people that came to the show and making sure that those people had the best experience possible — that’s essentially what NACDS did right here.
You can’t focus on the people who AREN’T there. If you do, all you’ll see is the negative space they leave behind, and you’ll probably get nothing accomplished. On the flip side, if you can focus on the people in front of you, you can have a pretty productive meeting. Wayne and I did.
Rob Eder is the editor in chief of The Drug Store News Group, publishers of Drug Store News, DSN Pharmacy Practice, PharmacyTech News, Specialty Pharmacy and Retail Clinician magazines. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.