That felt amazing, didn’t it?
The Meetings Show 2021 marked the moment the UK event sector roared back into life after 18 long months. There were so many emotions swirling around Excel on Thursday 30 September as tourism minister Nigel Huddleston opened the show and the aisles filled up – joy, anticipation, excitement, relief, all at the same time.
It was so energising to see all the hugs, fist bumps and high fives - actual physical connection - as event professionals got down to business. Most importantly, that famous trade show buzz - the one that has been denied to us for so long – was there in spades.
At times it felt like you couldn't walk more than 10 yards across the show floor without having an emotional reunion with someone you hadn't seen in more than a year. But the conversations were focused and meaningful, this was no mere nostalgia trip.
“We’re back with a bang!” one association head told me over prosecco at the end of that first day, as the hum of business gave way to the crackle and chatter of eventprofs networking, winding down and reflecting on the day’s events. And it was then that it started to sink in – this is what we’ve been missing, and it feels amazing to have it back.
The same, only different
My strongest memories of The Meetings Show 2021 will be of the confidence on display, the business that got done, the inspiring education sessions, and the spirit of the sector bubbling out from every stand and stage. We returned to networking, reconnecting with old friends and forging connections with new ones. How strange to emerge from our cocoons and find that we could still do this. The same, only different.
One thing that struck me was how much fun everyone was having. Putting it mildly, it’s not been too enjoyable being an event professional for a lot of the last 18 months. But the whirl of a trade show in full swing, with hundreds of like-minded people inspiring, motivating and educating one another, that can’t help but put a smile on your face.
For many it was the first opportunity to meet in-person with people we've previously only ever seen on screen. And then realise that people look completely different on Zoom than they do in real life (I lost count of the number of people who told me how tall I am). We've been saying it to everyone who will listen for the last 18 months, but here was living, breathing proof that there’s nothing like meeting face-to-face.
Make no mistake, there are still hard yards ahead for our sector. You only have to look at the headlines in the news every day to realise that the next few months are going to be a bumpy ride for the whole country. But The Meetings Show 2021 reminded us of why it will all be worth it in the end. Thanks so much to everyone that came along and connected at the show. The energy of being back to live was amazing - and I can’t wait to do it all again as soon as possible.
M&IT editor Paul Harvey is a journalist with more than 15 years of experience. He began his career in the local press, working for various titles across the north. Since joining M&IT in 2013, he has become a trusted and respected voice in the sector, championing event professionals and reporting on all aspects of the events industry for the brand.