Orlando has changed. It is always changing, but having been away for over two years it was really noticeable for this trip.
Part of this change has been my airline. I’ve gone from Northwest (NWA) to Delta after an acquisition. As a superstar traveler on NWA my sense were in tune with Trade Show World. Certain flights always went to certain gates, were over booked and would give you a free ticket, never made it on time, or were better in the morning than at night. Now that I am on Delta I step out of gates to a foreign land filled with different rhythms and patterns. Where is the best bathroom? Who has the best coffee? Where secret electrical outlets you can sit and work from? Hell if I know.
A few months ago I spend several hours reactivating my hotel award accounts. Some had expired and I lost point, others had email addresses from four jobs ago. This was my first time at this new hotel. The place was built for conferences. Two hotels share a rather large and advanced convention center between them. It is near Disney, so bring your spouse and family. But it is not on Disney property which adds a huge cost to producers, hotel stay, and meals.
It used to be the cornerstone of my calendar. Each year I did at least three events with these organizers, sometimes four. I was pretty tight with this crew knowing the programs and people. Those too have changed. Most friends have moved on while the few that remain have a pile of work and little time for much else. The dynamics have also radically changed from my sweet spot of new leads to a jobs fair for people who only want prizes and gifts. Fortunately my primary competitor spent three times more than I did and likely got the same or lesser results than I did.
My return flight was untypical for me. Why? Because I got hassled. I am not your George Clooney “Up In the Air” type of Everywhere Man who is charming and handsome with highly honed skills of persuasion. Instead I am the Del Griffith from “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” type of Everywhere Man who is friendly, amiable, and “goes with the flow.”
I stood in line to check in knowing better. I should have a) printed my ticket in the lobby of the hotel or b) looked for the other set of kiosks for passengers not checking baggage. But there I stood, with the rest of the cattle, mozy along.
Then I went go through security. With multiple lines to choose from, the entire design of the area is radically different than the other terminal I knew by heart. Too many choices. Too many teenagers with stuff in front of me. Too many older people not enough business people. Avoid the strollers? No, avoid the retired. No, avoid the long line. When I finally picked it was wrong, really wrong. So I jumped lanes to one that look better. Then, I got was randomly selected to wait in the box. Ugh. Then the two people behind me were selected as well. Now all three of us have piles of our stuff backing up the belt from the x-ray while the agent called for a “male search.” Go with the flow Del, go with the flow.
The gate was packed when I got there so I offered to give up my seat if needed to the agent. They were fine. No free ticket for me. I went to grab some yogurt and stood behind a man who was a) very slow and could not make up his mind b) hogging the the cooler space so I couldn’t grab what I wanted and c) gave me a dirty look when I said “excuse me, I just want to grab this.”
Boarding the flight when section four was called I was selected by the agent to check the size of my carry on. Now keep in mind, I have had this great bit of luggage my dad got me for a few years now. It is the same as “Up in the Air” by chance and fits the regulated size of the overhead compartment. But this agent disagrees. It will not fit in his opinion. So I had to check it. First time in forever. Keep in mind that three other people near me had the same cary on and were not stopped. I must have had a target on me.
On a more positive note, I was reminded once again how important it is for me that I be kind to others. Before the show wrapped up my neighbor Jennifer had no idea how she was going to send her booth back to the office. She was from Appellation State so we bad mouth UOM for a bit. Then I explained what she had to do. I walked her back and introduced her to the right people, then gave her some ideas on how to save money.
Once I took the time to pack up my brand new booth carefully and correctly I noticed that my other neighbor down the isle Thomas had no idea what he was doing. He had just gotten off the phone with his marketing person. Her explanation on how to pack was not helpful. She only reminded him how much the booth cost and not to break anything. Unlike the person I didn’t like six years ago, I didn’t break his booth and send it to the wrong location. Instead I took a half hour and packed the thing with him and sent it home.
Meeting new and interesting people, helping others, and seeing new places is really what Trade Show World is about.