By Ryan C. McKay
When I left Cleveland in November of last year and moved my family nearly 1,700 miles south to Orlando, I was excited to be living in the East Coast trade show capital of the United States.
Having spent my first 34 years in Northeast Ohio as the fourth generation of a “trade show family,” I was used to watching the nation’s biggest shows from afar since major shows came to Cleveland slightly less often than most comets or regular commercial flights into Burke Lakefront Airport. It was just a given that most of my handiwork in the industry would be enjoyed hundreds or thousands of miles away, far outside of my sight.
So, now here I am in Orlando — on a decidedly “light” year in terms of major shows — watching as Cleveland prepares to throw open the doors to the new convention center I spent years waiting for. The irony is hardly lost on me.
No bitterness here, I assure you. While I miss so much about my hometown, this was the first winter in my adult life that I didn’t spend the majority of my time popping aspirin for a snow shoveling-related back injury. No, I’m very much enjoying my new surroundings, and likewise, very happy to see Cleveland get a second (third? fourth?) chance to reinvent itself as a true destination city.
This is truly a chance for Cleveland to show the world that we are more than “just” the Rock Hall, the Christmas Story House or the place that used to have the Flats (a destination I am still asked about on a weekly basis all these miles away). Yes, we are all of that, but we are so much more. Cleveland can show that it’s a city of top-notch restaurants, an increasing number of modern and trend-setting hotels, a fantastic art scene, and a great collection of quirky neighborhoods that provide something for EVERYONE.
Perhaps most importantly, though, we can show the world that Cleveland has HEART. Not the kind of scrappy, underdog heart that we’ve adopted after years of fighting for respect on the national scene but rather the kind of heart that shows a humble pride in who we are and what we do. The kind of heart that welcomes visitors with open arms. The kind that doesn’t need to put on its best face because its best is, in fact, it’s natural state.
In my eight months of living and working in Orlando, I’ve spoken to hundreds of companies who spend – quite literally – millions of dollars on their trade show and conference marketing programs. I’ve seen the show schedules for 2014 and 2015. Those companies … those people … those millions of dollars ARE coming your way, Cleveland, and they are coming SOON. This is what we’ve been waiting for. This is opening night. Let’s do this.
Ryan C McKay is a fourth-generation trade show and event professional and freelance copy writer/content marketer. Originally from Cleveland, he recently relocated to Orlando, Fla. He welcomes your emails at email@example.com.