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Here's how we can return to trade shows

The Big 5G Event is happening in Denver next week. It will be one of the first in-person trade shows for the US telecom industry since the pandemic started.

I'll be there. I'm looking forward to it.

I'm also planning to go to other in-person events this fall, like MWC in LA and the WIA's Connect (X) event in Orlando. SDxCentral recently published this helpful list of all of the major fall telecom events in the US.

What this means is that it's time for us, as an industry, to collectively dust off our suitcases, get haircuts, shave, and get back out there. Unless the Delta variant gets worse, or some other problem crops up, the fall trade show season is upon us. Ready or not.

For those of us who are willing to return to trade show travel (at least domestically), here are five things to think about:

1. Get vaccinated.

If you're not vaccinated, don't go. Seriously. Just get vaccinated.

2. Bring a mask and be ready to wear it.

Right now masks are "encouraged," not required, for the Big 5G show. I'll probably mask up for at least some of the show. I'll probably take it off sometimes too, particularly when there are opportunities to put booze into my mouth.

It will be strange to have meetings with people wearing masks. But that's where we are right now.

If the person you're meeting is wearing a mask, that's fine. If they're not wearing one and you would like them to, just ask them politely if they would please put on a mask. You don't need to explain why. If someone asks you to put on a mask, just do it.

Let's work with each other on this one. It's better to be safe than sorry.

3. Forget the handshakes, for now.

Maybe we'll be able to do handshakes later, but let's just skip that for now. Instead, let's just wave hello to each other.

Fist bumps are fine too, I guess... if you want everyone to know how lame you are.

Also, kissing is totally acceptable, but no tongues.

4. The only appropriate greeting is "You look great!"

The pandemic has been difficult for a lot of us. Some have aged horribly, struggled with addictions or gotten fat. Maybe all three.

And so, when you greet your associates, colleagues and coworkers – people you may not have seen in almost two years – be kind to them. "You look great!" That's all you need to say, even if it might not be true.

And if you're one of those people who used the pandemic to do something productive like learn a new skill or get in shape, just shut up about it.

5. It'll be weird. That's OK.

The Big 5G Event this year will have a virtual component. That means some speakers aren't going to be there in person but will instead talk to us through Zoom. Expect to encounter plenty of the "I think you're on mute" videoconferencing problems we've all become painfully familiar with.

Meaning, it's not going to be perfect. And that's OK.

Telecom trade shows aren't going away, but they also probably aren't going to be exactly like they used to be. We're all going to learn this "new normal" together. My hope is that we do so with grace, patience, kindness and plenty of humor (and booze).

Personally, I'm ready to get back out there. I'm excited to take my sweat pants off and put my suit on again (man, I hope it still fits). I'm looking forward to hearing about the new technologies and strategies this industry is cooking. I hope to see you out there, too.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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