Tradeshow and Exhibit Thoughtleaders
"The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge
and the dissemination of truth."

John F. Kennedy

Meet our Thoughtleaders: An Interview with
Susan Friedmann, CSP by Gordon Nary

Return to Susan's Webpage
Thoughtleaders Main Page

Gordon:   What was the one defining moment when you knew you wanted to be a tradeshow trainer? 

Susan:     I was in my early twenties, helping my dad work the annual Daily Mail Home and Garden Show in London. It was a grueling experience, 9am-9pm, seven days a week for a full month.

Traffic on the show floor ebbed and flowed throughout the day, but the last couple of hour’s activity fizzled down to a few stragglers. This was my time to meander up and down the aisles, watching the other exhibitors. As you can imagine, people were sitting around looking bored, reading, eating, and generally paying zero attention to any action on the show floor.  That’s when something inside me decided that one day I would teach people how to work an exhibit. I’m not sure where that thought came from, but it lodged itself in my subconscious, and to be honest, I totally forgot about it.

Fast-forward almost twenty years when I was living in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’d worked in sales, marketing and public relations, attended tradeshows around the world, and presented multiple training sessions.  

When the economy tanked and I was downsized, not once, twice but three times, I knew it was time to take control of my destiny. Since I could do whatever I wanted, I focused my attention on what gave me the most pleasure - helping others become successful.

This is when the thought of tradeshow training returned, and The Tradeshow Coach was born.

Gordon:   What is the biggest challenge you have working with exhibitors?

Susan:     Since tradeshows only last a few days, many exhibitors feel they interfere with the normal selling routine. As a result, they’re often viewed as a hindrance or nuisance. In reality, exhibiting is a powerful extension of a company’s marketing, advertising, promotion, public relations and sales function.

Without a doubt, my biggest challenge is having exhibitors appreciate the power of exhibit marketing and the importance of investing in tradeshow training. There always seems to be money available for purchasing the display, prettying it up, but when it comes to the people working the show – your company ambassadors, these people are expected to know what to do, and how to do it.

Since most staffers are often sales professionals, selling is what they do for a living, so they know what they’re doing. Wrong! This thinking is totally false.

Working a show requires different skills, or rather an adaptation of the skills they use daily. Unfortunately, many sales professionals fail to recognize this, and treat selling on the show floor exactly the same way they conduct themselves in the field. It’s only when management realize that they’re not getting a return on their large financial investment, they seek out a quick fix, and turn to exhibitor training.

Gordon:   Do you think tradeshows will ever disappear? 

Susan:     Absolutely not, tradeshows have been around since biblical times. Of course, not the way we experience them today, but the concept of buyers coming to sellers has survived for centuries.

Historically the tradeshow industry has been slow to change, but now with the constant advances in technology, tradeshows must change to survive.  Whether it’s adding virtual to the physical, using the Internet or social media, the trade show model of yesteryear is transforming into a new and improved event. Because bringing buyers and sellers together constitute the core of every business, and tradeshows enable that process extremely well, why should they go away?

Gordon:  What is a pearl of wisdom you’d like to give exhibitors?

Susan:    Exhibitors need to view exhibiting holistically. Tradeshows should form an integral part of your company’s overall marketing.  There should be total alignment between your strategic marketing and your exhibit marketing plans.  Tradeshows shouldn’t be viewed as a stand-alone venture, but rather a key component of your company’s marketing communications mix, designed to contribute to specific long-and short-term goals to reach your target markets.

Taken seriously, with top management’s total support and commitment, plus forethought and planning, companies can profit nicely from their efforts.

Long live trade shows!

For more information on trade show training, and a complimentary 15-minute coaching session with Susan, contact her at