With a world gone virtual over the last year-plus, it has been increasingly common to see talking heads pontificating on TV and various online channels on whether work travel has become an outdated way of doing business.

Why go through the trouble and expense of booking plane tickets and a hotel, leaving one’s family, being required to be out of the office, and most pressing of all, be potentially forced to (gasp) shake another human being’s hand, when all you have to do is click the “Join the meeting” button on Teams, Skype or Zoom from the comfort of your home or office, the line of reasoning seems to go.

But after being canceled in 2020 and postponed from its originally scheduled date in April this year, the industry’s biggest event, WasteExpo, is finally set to take place June 28-30 in Las Vegas.

For me, and for most attendees of the show, the event will mark the first in-person event in more than 15 months.

While attending the show in the flesh demands more time, effort and expense than booting up the computer, there is simply no replacing the value of face-to-face engagement.

For operators, being able to walk the expansive convention grounds and visit a seemingly endless lineup of vendors showcasing everything from trucks and the latest fleet software to air fresheners allows a hands-on opportunity to see and touch potential products before making what are often substantial investments. Just as important, attending these shows allows waste services providers to compare and contrast different products and services while speaking directly with the manufacturers. Of course, the value of a busy convention hall for the industry’s vendors is in getting to engage with leads and existing customers alike all under one roof.

Similarly, the in-person education sessions at a show like WasteExpo allow for engaged learning opportunities and the potential to pull presenters aside for one-on-one conversations or to exchange contact information to connect down the line.

This type of access is difficult, if not impossible, to replicate virtually.

Maybe just as vital as being able to meet in person once again to kick the tires on a new purchase or learn from industry counterparts is the chance to connect with peers on a human level.

Business is personal, and the waste industry is no exception. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that relationships are what matter most.

Yes, being able to engage with industry peers on the show floor and in a conference room has tremendous value from a fact-finding and educational perspective, but perhaps even more, the chance to be together—whether it be for a quick chat, a bite to eat or to share a drink at cocktail hour—helps establish the bonds that give working in the industry meaning.

I hope to see you there.