What you missed at SEPC Southern Exposure
The Packer's Northeast editor Amy Sowder shares her sights, sounds and voices of the 2020 Southern Exposure conference and trade show in Tampa, Fla. ( Photo by Amy Sowder )

TAMPA, Fla. — I hope the 2,700 people who flooded the Tampa Convention Center for the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Exposure expo absorbed some vitamin D, along with all the education and innovation the show provided.

I made sure to soak in at least a little sunshine each morning as I walked from my hotel to the expo about 15 minutes away.

It’s easy to never experience the outdoor air during these trade shows, when it feels like all you see is “ballrooms, bathrooms and bedrooms,” as speaker Colette Carlson told the women at the Southern Roots Luncheon.

Living in New York City as the Northeast editor of The Packer, sufficient quantities of vitamin D are often missing from my life during winter, even in this mild winter we’ve had so far this year.

Walking as a way of commuting helps.

Also, this Feb. 27-29 trade show was a blast, and that helped brighten my mood.

Watch the video above to get a feel for what this Southern Exposure show was really like.

The festive Mardi Gras theme added some frivolity throughout the three-day show. I loved the green, gold and purple colors throughout, the roaming Dixieland jazz band, the guy who balanced plates on sticks and the two women who walked around the trade show on stilts. Plus, there was Cajun food (oh, those jelly-filled beignets!), and — this cannot be positively reinforced enough — a coffee bar.

Twirling their green, gold and purple umbrellas, council leaders paraded through the keynote luncheon’s center aisle to the trade show floor as it opened.

These touches mattered.

Because, sometimes, your hotel is a bit sketchy. You forgot something important at home. You can’t stop thinking about the work you need to get done while the show is underway.

It helps to enjoy the frills of the show: Grab some delicious fruit at the registration booths. Try the food samples everywhere. Walk to a local restaurant.

Take some time to really talk with the new people you meet and the familiar faces you are glad to see again.

Yes, we all have an agenda. It is business, after all.

But let loose a little. When the band is playing your song at the gala, put your purse down (or just your reservations) and lift your hands in the air.

Step outside. Look at the sparkling water. Breathe. Tilt your face toward that sunshine.

Feeling well is good for business.

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