Don’t Burn Bridges

There are people who love to stir up drama and then there are those who run as far away from any sign of a dramatic showdown.  

Drama might make for good reality tv, but in real life, drama is exhausting and needless.

Sometimes it’s created and sometimes you get stuck in the middle of someone else’s spectacle. A surefire way to invite drama into your life is by burning bridges that don’t need to be ignited. Burning bridges is a way of saying that you have ended a relationship in such a way that is irrevocable (with some exceptions).  The trade show industry can be just as cutthroat as any other.  It is not immune to the incestuous nature of business relationships, like the notorious nature of the media and advertising world.  

How To Avoid The Drama Trap

Disclaimer:  Sometimes there are some very valid and good reasons to burn a bridge.  In those cases, it’s often for your own health and personal wellness. The following examples don’t apply to those types of situations.  

Talking Smack

There are lots of people in this world who love to talk negatively about other people.  They thrive on it. And they are insufferable to be around. Your main objective is to not get on their bad side or else it will be you they will be trashing next.  

Talking smack is the surest way to burn a bridge.  Unfortunately, it’s not human nature to respond to backstabbing with grace and love.  Even if you think you are having a private conversation with someone, the word is likely to get around.  Here is what NOT to do:

  1. Knock down a competitor with words.  Don’t gossip to a client about how bad so-and-so is at managing their shows.  Instead, focus on all you have to offer, not what your competitors lack.
  2. Talk about your employees behind their backs.  Word gets around fast and, in the end, you might end up with a very lonely business.  If you have an issue with someone talk to them in person and in a professional manner.
  3. Show disrespect to your vendors.  

The best way to avoid the gossip trap is to treat everyone as a potential client, employee or employer.  During times of stress and hardship, people have a tendency to show their true colors. Rise above the pettiness and choose your words (and actions) wisely.

Greener Grass

Most of us have been lectured about the sin of pursuing the greener grass on the other side; that contentment in all situations is the key to happiness.  

I’m going to burst that bubble and declare right now that sometimes the grass can be greener and that it’s okay to look into other professional opportunities when they arise.  Problems that can arise often happen when it’s time to break ties with your current company/venue to pursue other opportunities.

Let’s pretend you have a successful manufacturing show in a big city that attracts gobs of attendees.  Sounds great, right? But there is a glaring sore spot and it’s the venue manager. She wasn’t interested in your show until you became a multi-million success story, but now that you have brought your show to her venue, she still treats you with the same disrespect as before (among other glaring issues).  You could stay and deal with her attitude or you could find a new host city with a more deserving venue.

While the venue managers curt demeanor and lack of professionalism are already fanning the flames, that bridge could be completely destroyed if you walk away out of spite.  To keep your relationship from going down the path of no return, try to follow this advice:

  1. Give as much time in advance of your shows departure to give the venue time to find an alternative show.  
  2. Don’t stoop to an undignified level.  Keep things kind and professional.
  3. Be as tactful as you can.
  4. Do not trash talk the venue or its manager.
  5. Have the conversation in person and steer it in a positive direction.


If you burn bridges with multiple people, it should come as no surprise that you will earn a reputation for being difficult to work with.  Burning a relationship with a person doesn’t necessarily stay with that that one person (or company). It’s likely to follow you around. People tend to be transient and don’t stay at one job forever.  Your competition just might end up being your employer someday.

Worthwhile Pursuit

If you have burned some bridges in the past it might not be too late for Reconciliation.  Resolve to stay in good graces with everyone you meet – as much as is humanly possible – in an effort to stay away from unnecessary stress and drama.  Not only will you be able to keep your head held high, but your bridges will remain intact.