I talked to the good folks at the National Association of Consumer Shows this morning in Memphis Tennessee. I walked away feeling as if I did a good job but not a great job. I did talk to quite a few of them individually and I enjoyed a nice barbecue lunch with a convention goer, and they were easy to talk with in that context. But as a room full of people, it felt tough. In trying to figure that out I came up with two theories — one is undoubtedly true: I could be more polished as a speaker. But hey that’s practice, and the talk today was more practice. So I get to own a piece of it for sure. I think the other bit is that these are people who have been bit hard by the recession. That came through in almost every individual conversation I had. Their business is selling to consumers, and attending an auto show or a home show or a flower show or a car show are all optional. Their success is closely tied to consumer confidence. That’s returning. But it’s returning slowly. And frankly, it’s still bad. I think it’s really, really tough to look forward when your business is tied to something that’s just not that healthy for the moment. Oh, we’ll pull out, and so will they. These are creative, smart people. But it was a good reminder for me that there is still a long pull up to economic excitement.
Some people came up afterwards to tell me they appreciated my optimism, so the core message was there. We do all have to change this together.
Two other observations:
- The most animated part of the the discussion was about social networking. Of course, that’s what everyone is talking about.
- Memphis is the deep south. I hadn’t really realized it until I got there. Southern hospitality runs deep, and it seemed like everywhere I went in the hotel (the downtown Marriott), staff were bending over backwards to help.