Tradeshow and Exhibit Thoughtleaders
Gordon: When I along with thousands of others read the news release about your and Mim's retirement. it seemed like the the end of an era in the tradeshow and exhibit industry which, in my opinion, will have lost two of of it's most important recourses. How did you get started in the exhibition industry?
Marc. Like most professionals in the trade show industry, it was not by design that we ended up spending the last 28 years involved with events. Mim started as an elementary school teacher and I had a marketing degree.
My very first trade show was while I was still in college. I worked part time for National Student Marketing Corporation and was sent to the National Booksellers' Show to represent us in the Doubleday booth. They published our book, Summer Jobs for College Students. I had no idea what a trade show was, but learned very quickly that it was a "different" medium from all those that I studied in Business School. I was hooked. It wasn't until I was Marketing Manager of Westinghouse’s Gas Turbine Division where we exhibited in very large spaces and got little in return that I starting thinking there had to be a better way invest our marketing dollars. Out of that analysis came my first staff prep training program. Soon other divisions heard about our preparation and I was asked to support their exhibiting programs.
After Westinghouse, I managed a start-up manufacturing company that was sold after three years. The new owners did not want the management team, only the product.
Marketech was launched in 1985, with the primary focus being exhibitor staff training and strategic market planning.
Mim joined the business after a 20 year career in education when I double-booked myself and needed help satisfying both customers. She did a great job and stayed. She brought the education discipline to our training offerings to support the marketing discipline that was already there. The company soon evolved into a performance improvement enterprise with the focus on StaffPrep staff training and measurement.
Gordon: What did you like most about your exhibit industry career and liked least?
Marc; This was a career where positive performance improvement through training and reported metrics made for extreme satisfaction. Helping our clients improve their performance by working smarter and making informed decisions through metrics was the "high" achieved almost daily.
What was most frustrating was when clearly identified issues were communicated and then were ignored due to overtaxed schedules and lack of management understanding or commitment.
The biggest "least liked" was the incessant and never ending travel (for Marc, at least).
Gordon: What are the major challenges facing the industry?
Marc; The biggest challenges haven't changed in 30 years and this is disconcerting Setting measurable objectives, selecting and preparing the staff, measuring the results and doing it better the next time vs. just showing up and hoping for the best.
One of the next challenges facing the convention management is not relinquishing the control of exhibitions to ad agencies, who are often more costly and don’t always understand the medium. Another challenge will be managing the balance between digital and traditional media, i.e., live events vs. virtual, that will also tax the next generation of exhibitors.
Gordon: What are the needs of the exhibiting industry?
Marc: Professionals who are thinkers, who are strategic, exhibit marketers vs. logistical experts. Convention managers who make the commitment to be life-long learners. Executive management who is willing to understand and accept the potential power of exhibits in the marketing mix. Maintaining a focus on what really works vs. the latest “whiz-bang” that might be the flavor of the month promotion, using valuable dollars that would be better applied to exhibiting improvement.
Gordon: Now, how about the next generation of Marketech leadership?
Marc:; Holly Stevens takes over the helm of Marketech at a great time since more and more exhibitors are asking the question, “what are we getting in return for our exhibiting investment?”. Exhibitors are also asking, “how can we economically prepare our staffs to perform more effectively?” And, Holly is very well suited to address these challenges since she brings over 20 years of exhibition management experience at Bard, Pharmacia, and Pfizer and 7 years as Director of Projects for Marketech. Sitting in both training and measurement chairs, she has had the ability to interact with both sides of the business. She was very instrumental in development of several of our newest offerings - StaffAssist, StaffPrep II and Basics (measurement). All of these offerings were in response to client needs. This will be one of the most important leadership issues she will face. Answering the unique needs of our clients with services that don’t exist in the form they need to answer their performance challenges and reduced budgets.
Gordon: I have had the pleasure of working with Holly on several occasions iin the past few years and have been very impressed with her knowledge and skills. But as I commented in the opening of this interview, it is the end of an era, But I am pleased that the Tradeshow and Exhibit Thoughtleaders will thoughtleaders will continue to feature many valuable articles by you and Mim in future issues of our Journal and in our Library.