Seven years ago, when I came into this industry – a bright eyed and bushy tailed sales executive – if you had told me that I would be longing for a windowless trade show floor, a busy hotel bar, or even a (delayed) connecting flight to a touristy resort (aka a parking conference), I wouldn’t have believed you. After countless trips, unpacking and repacking my suitcase and racing through airports, it’s amazing how much I’ve come to look forward to these conferences throughout the year and how much I’m missing them during this time. I’ve been thinking back on these beloved conferences and realizing what they’ve meant to me over the years.
Early in my Honk career, I attended conferences solo — for many a daunting task — but being alone with a group of strangers doesn’t phase the extrovert in me. It’s my sweet spot. I am also lucky to have always been met by a warm and welcoming group of people at every show. When I look back at their kindness, it’s not surprising that I’ve formed lasting friendships with many of them along the way.
I’ll never forget the year my birthday fell during the Parking Industry Expo (PIE) in Chicago. After a long day on the tradeshow floor, I’ll always remember celebrating at the side of the highway with my parking friends and a box of delicious Chicago deep-dish pizza. Definitely a birthday for the books. I truly miss these friends that I only get to see in person a few times a year, and I’m counting the days until I can see these folks face to face again.
How many people can say they’ve gone to New Orleans for a work conference and had some of the best meals of their lives? And those tacky Anaheim or Universal Studios hotels that I now miss so dearly? Once-in-a-lifetime experiences for most people, but they have turned into my home away from home. Who doesn’t love coming home laden with swag that you don’t really need? All those branded pens are finally coming in handy in my new ‘home office’ – as are the stress balls!
Parking conferences have sure taught me a lot. All the new advancements in the industry, the many innovations on display on the show floor, the knowledge gained from seminars and panels – maybe not the early morning ones after a late night out with my buddies – but you get the gist. I’ve developed tons of new skills like how to tear down a 10’x10’ trade show booth in under 7 minutes, pack it in the oh-so-convenient ‘carrying case’ Jenga-style (minus a few key pieces), do the mad dash to the airport, pay $600 in overweight baggage fees, and finally set up a permanent office in the airport lounge waiting for a flight, all while wearing heels.
Parking conferences were a great source of new leads, new contacts, and new connections. And while it’s been wonderful seeing many of these conferences pivot to the virtual realm, there’s something so, well, human about meeting people face to face at trade shows. Shaking hands with new clients, hugging old friends, or giving our parking industry peers a pat on the back — these are the things that I miss, and some that I may have taken for granted pre-pandemic.
While being *robbed* of our dearly loved conferences has been a bitter pill to swallow, I have so much faith that those of us in the parking industry will gather together again, stronger than ever, on the other side…
Stay safe and healthy my friends.
I’ll be ready for you, Conferences.
While I can’t be with you in-person, the next best thing is drinks over Zoom. Hit me up!
– Kacey Siskind
Senior Vice President, HONK