Embracing the Social Awkwardness of Industry Tradeshows

RIA 2024 Member from Every State

Tradeshows are an excellent way to expand your knowledge and your network. Industry expos can also be socially awkward. Meeting new people can be harrowing. This is true whether you have been to several large events or you are attending your first convention. I will share a few things I have learned that will help professionals embrace the social awkwardness and harvest more value from industry events.

In my career, I’ve learned that nothing happens unless I am intentional. It should be no surprise that you will only get out of a trade show what you are willing to put into it. To maximize professional value you must embrace social awkwardness by pushing through personal discomfort. Be intentional to move yourself from attendee to participant. One creative way I have found to force myself to meet new people is to try to meet a member from every state at larger industry events. This practice gives me a goal, forces me out of my shell, and has opened up some fun conversations.

Having peers in several states is an excellent way to expand your professional network.

On the topic of states, it’s funny to me that I spend more time with peers from my home state at industry events than I do back in Washington. The agenda of a conference provides attendees with educational opportunities, but a ton of value is exchanged in the peer engagements on the expo floor, during breaks, and while sharing meals or beverages. Getting a broad range of opinions helps challenge my thinking about shared issues and opens me to new ideas for creative solutions. As I meet with professionals from multiple states I am also learning about their businesses and how they approach our shared industry challenges.

Peers from diverse backgrounds help me elevate my mindsets and habits.

As the host of a construction podcast, people I meet are often surprised to find that I can be introverted. Whether you are outgoing or feel socially awkward, it’s important to know that most professionals have the same struggles. Industry veterans should be intentional in engaging with new members if they want their associations to be strong. Newcomers should seek out the rich history and contributions of those who have gone before them.

In closing, here are a few suggestions to help professionals embrace social awkwardness and harvest more value from industry events:

  • Do your research and be intentional in maximizing your trade show experience. Be more than an attendee.

  • Set a goal to meet at least a dozen new people each day or set an objective to meet a peer from every state. Be more than an observer.

  • Follow up with your association to discover its history and volunteer in an area that is interesting to you. Be an active contributor.

For those contractors and restoration professionals I met at the Restoration Industry Association (RIA) Annual Convention and Expo in Dallas this year, here are the results of my efforts:

MISSES: States I either could not locate or did not meet a member from (If you were from one of these states and were at the event, please let me know) – Alabama*, Alaska, Delaware, Iowa*, Kentucky, Massachusetts*, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon*, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah*, Vermont, Wyoming (*Saw and ID badge but didn’t meet or get a picture).

HITS: Arizona – Rebecca Peruch, Artemis; Arkansas – David Schmidt, Pro Service; California – Andrew Rodgers, COIT; Colorado – Doug Weatherman, Rare; Connecticut – Ramona Gallagher, Great Estates; Florida – Pete Consigli, Watchdog; Georgia – Casey Clark, Disaster Recovery Services; Hawaii – Anthony Nelson, Pivot; Idaho – Pat Coppi, Red Truck; Illinois – Lee Shoop, DKI Supply; Indiana – Todd Wagner, Hays & Sons; Kansas – Kevin Molway, More Floods; Louisiana – Kevin Hussey, United Fire & Water; Maine – Norman Bouchard, Bouchards; Maryland – JaMar Plater, Thomasville; Michigan – Kelli McCardel, McCardels; Minnesota – Jeremy Jongbloedt, ICC; Missouri – Tony Neville, Neville & Sons; Montana – Logan Hope, Buffalo; Nevada – Darrell Paulson, IICRC; New Hampshire – Michael Schneider, FLIR; New Jersey – Sulaimun Jenkins, 5 Star; New York – David Deroller, Rock; North Carolina – Mason Veneble, American; Oklahoma – Jerry Renfroe, Bison; Ohio – Ben Muth, 360; Pennsylvania – Cliff Zlotnik, IAQ Radio; South Carolina – Spencer Turner, EAS; Tennessee – Greg Driver, Apex; Texas – Josh Hobbs, Fleet; Virginia – Don Collins, ServPro; Washington – Elisha Gessele, Clean Image; West Virginia – John Woods, Crossroads; Wisconsin – Jay Cricks, Northstar.

Watch Jon’s video reflecting on his experience trying to meet someone from every state at the RIA 2024 Convention.

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Jon Isaacson

Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is a general contractor based in Tacoma, Washington. He is the author of several moderately selling books and the host of the info-taining DYOJO Podcast. Content from The DYOJO aims to help contractors shorten their DANG learning curve.

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