If I was writing copy for a radio ad, I would say, “The Offshore Technology Conference is just around the corner.” But I won’t say that, partly because it’s a horribly trite cliché and partly because it implies that something fun and delightful is about to happen. No, I’d be more likely to characterize the imminent arrival of OTC as “looming ever larger” or “about to crush us all.” It’s not that I don’t like OTC. It is arguably one of the most amazing trade expos one could hope to attend. Its sheer size exemplifies the concept that everything is bigger in Texas. And it is full of the aforementioned “big chunks of iron,” giant pieces of kit that showcase how truly innovative this industry is. No, my main trepidation is more the logistics – getting there, walking from the parking lot to the exhibit halls, attempting to take in even a fraction of the show floor, trying to be in too many places at once to cover everything that’s happening, navigating rush hour traffic to make it to the evening receptions, etc. There is LOTS of walking at OTC. LOTS. It makes my feet hurt to even think about it. But in addition to trepidation, I will admit to a certain degree of curiosity. There are at least two elements at play this year that weren’t in evidence last year. First of all, of course, is the economic downturn. So far I haven’t been to a show that has seemed vastly affected by this crisis – the North American Prospect Expo actually seemed busier than last year – but as it wears on, we’re likely to see companies scaling back on their trade show participation to save some money. Secondly is the swine flu epidemic, which has already made its way to Houston. OTC issued a press release this morning saying that the show will not be closed because of this problem. “The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not limited travel to the US with the flu outbreak and recommends sensible health precautions to those who will be traveling to the US,” the release states. Precautions at the show will include hand-sanitizer stations and encouragement to attendees to wash their hands frequently. Other than that, event organizers promise to “closely monitor the situation.” Will people stay away from OTC this year? It remains to be seen. Rest assured that your hardy E&P editors will be there in force, bringing you almost live coverage of press conferences and other events taking place during the show. And washing our hands frequently.