Hi, my name is Matt and I like trade shows.
True — I have not ridden an entire seasonal circuit (or two or ten) in a booth as an exhibitor. I haven’t been tethered by the short leash in-between Thursday set-up and Sunday tear-down. Haven’t had weekend after weekend of the always-entertaining-but-never-a-good-idea Friday and/or Saturday night carousing (well, since college and the service anyhow). I haven’t clocked hundreds of hours humping boxes of display hardware and gear, or logged countless winter windshield or business-class airline miles away from the family criss-crossing the country. I’m a rookie. I’m not yet jaded.
But I have roamed 4 of them under the guise of being The Media: IFTD in NOLA, Somerset, Denver and Somerset again just this past weekend. According to some – that’s three too many already. However, I made the latest trip to Jersey under significantly different circumstances. I was still a blog writer, yes – and had a whole lot of fellow writers, photographers, artists, anglers and humorists on my agenda to meet (as I’ve done at the other shows), as well as manufacturers, fly shop owners, fly tiers and other industry folks. I was also representing our film project – A Deliberate Life – that’s touring with IF4 and this particular trade show. And lastly, I was there as a member of the Thomas & Thomas fly fishing cohort, being the guy that runs their digital and social marketing initiatives among other things — the first time my association with them had been made public outside of personal conversations with friends.
To me the shows stand for more than just a necessary evil — they represent the community that our industry is starting to become (or return to, as may be the case). They represent the best and brightest and the young and hungry – which are, in many cases, one in the same. Independent spirit, entrepreneurial thinking and working that much harder (and smarter) to reach goals. They represent the time, energy and creativity that we’re putting into the future of our sport — brands, large and small, being active and engaged with communities, consumers and each other on far more personal levels, which I can only see extending to an increased willingness to lead by example, a push toward more sustainable business practices, and stronger, proactive efforts with regard to environmental stewardship.
I know there’ll be a time when it’ll fall to me to hold down the booth. When I’ll be the one responsible for humping boxes and logging all those miles. When I’m no longer a rookie. I know it. But that doesn’t much bother me. I’ll always be down for handshakes and beers with old friends and new acquaintances and talking about who-caught-what and where, if not actually getting out together and catching who-knows-what-wherever. I’ll always be down for the time and energy it takes to make a difference. Because, shit — this is the path I chose to follow. And when it comes right down to it, these are the good people I want to run that path with.
No, I’m not yet jaded.
Thankfully, that doesn’t mean I’m going to wind up that way either.