Secrets of Successful Exhibition Managers

Whoever said that being an exhibition manager was easy, lied! Rather, it should be classified under the tough and demanding job category. But along with being tough, it’s also fun, exciting, exhilarating, stimulating, and never, ever boring. You have the opportunity to go to exotic places, stay in luxurious hotels, and experience life from a totally different angle. Who could ask for anything more? For those of you ready to shoot me at this point, know that I fully understand your pain!

The purpose of this article is to look at ten skills that help make a super successful exhibition manager, and how you can take this expertise and use it to enhance the great job you’re already doing.

1. Planning and organising

The most common reason exhibitions go wrong lies in the simple fact that not enough time is devoted to adequate planning and preparation. And many of those exhibitions that are believed to have been successful are often more by chance than through actual organisation. Super successful exhibition managers have a strategic exhibition marketing and tactical plan of action. They then use the following five basic questions as their foundation before making any arrangements:

  • Where does this show fit into our corporate marketing strategy?
  • Why are we exhibiting?
  • What are we exhibiting?
  • Who is our target audience?
  • What is our budget?

2. Taking care of details

So much of putting a tradeshow together means taking care of the details, and there are usually more of these than you care to think about. Being detail-oriented is a definite plus. The key to an exhibition manager’s success is having a system that works. Creating checklists is one of the best I know. With the hundreds of pieces that make up the tradeshow puzzle, the only way to put them together and keep tabs on all the details, is with a checklist. Become a checklist fanatic and consider having a checklist for each checklist. I’m getting dizzy just thinking about it.

3. Practicing savvy marketing

A significant part of a successful exhibition manager’s role involves developing a pre-show, at-show and post-show marketing plan. Most exhibitors fail to have a plan that encompasses all three areas. Your budget is naturally going to play a major role in deciding what and how much promotional activity is possible. Super successful exhibition managers know the importance of developing a meaningful theme or message that ties into their strategic marketing plan and that will guide their promotional decisions. They know and understand their target audience and plan different promotional programmes aimed at the different groups they are interested in attracting.

4. Being a team player

Super successful exhibition managers know exactly how to work together as a team, helping each other out whenever and wherever necessary. They help everyone get acquainted, develop a level of trust, and familiarise and understand each other’s strengths. They know what it takes to create an environment of camaraderie where the staff, as a whole, pulls out all the stops to succeed and set themselves apart from the competition.

5. Knowing how to manage time

Super successful exhibition managers have mastered the art of managing their time. They are well organised and have essential information at their fingertips, which means that their work environment is orderly and efficient. They know their priorities, don’t over commit themselves, and can differentiate between important and urgent tasks. They are superb delegators and are not afraid to ask for help whenever they need it. Finally, they don’t procrastinate; on the contrary, they practice the “do it now” habit.

6. Negotiating skillfully

Skillful and savvy negotiators know exactly what they want. They spend time doing their research so that they know as much as possible about their opponent. They are prepared with strategies and tactics, questions and possible concessions. They are masters at finding alternative ways of talking about, reacting to and solving problems. They use their talents of intuition, flexibility and concern for others to reach an agreement where both sides win. They look to create a feeling of co-operation to build a mutually beneficial working environment.

7. Applying a positive attitude

Research successful people and you’ll find that having a positive, “can do” attitude ranks high on their list of characteristics. Not only are they positive and upbeat, but they also surround themselves with naturally positive and successful people. Give it a try and see if their attitude rubs off on you. When you focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do, expect to find solutions to your various challenges. Try changing your vocabulary to reflect your optimistic thoughts and feelings, and see what happens. People find you more attractive and want to be around you, especially when you focus and direct your conversation to the outcomes they want.

8. Evaluating results

Any master continuously looks to improve on his/her performance, and a super successful exhibition manager is no different. Create a system to evaluate your results. Ask exhibition stand visitors and your exhibition stand staff for their feedback. Find out what they liked about your display stand and general show participation, and what would they like to see improved. In addition, ask yourself what you thought went well and what you would do differently if you had to organise this show again. Chronicle all your data and keep accurate records so that you can refer to them the next time around.

9. Being a perpetual learner

We live in an information age and are inundated by more stuff than we can possibly cope with. However, successful people love it, since they are perpetual learners. They know the pitfalls of relying on what worked in the past as a guide to what will work in the future. That’s why they constantly look for new and improved ways of doing things, learning from the masters and staying open and willing to try different approaches.

10. Keeping a sense of humour

If you don’t laugh, you might cry. In the exhibition and event industry there’s no lack of situations where it’s easy to shed a tear. Keep your sense of humour. It will definitely help keep you from getting mad, annoyed and frustrated with incompetent and disorganised suppliers. Learn to laugh at their mistakes, as well as your own, to maintain a saner perspective on life. If nothing else, remember that laughing is good for your health. It helps reduce both your stress and blood pressure levels.


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