Exhibit Managers Speak: What Do We Want?


People like me—exhibit managers—get tons of advice from various sources telling us how to do our jobs—faster, smarter, better. I’ve noticed this advice often comes from people who have never done our jobs. Guess what? Another voice needs to be heard in this somewhat one-sided conversation; it’s our voice, explaining what we want—and need—to do our jobs better. It’s a voice that rarely gets heard—and I would like to have my say. I don’t for a minute think I’m speaking only for myself.

Here are some answers to the question: What do exhibit managers want?

Exhibit managers want

  1. To stop having to prove we are more than tacticians, more than the people who decide on the color of the booth carpet or who create staff lunch schedules.
  2. Respect for our budgets and commitments. Our programs should not be the first item on the chopping block when budget cut-backs are announced. We never want to hear, “Oh let’s just take the money from the trade show program” again.
  3. An end to the countless “oh you get to travel and stay in nice hotels” remarks. Wow, they’re getting old.
  4. Inclusion on strategy discussions. Too much is riding on what we do for us not to have a seat at the table. We know the actual physical faces of the customers.
  5. Access to marketing data so we can make it actionable.
  6. Reasonable response times from our colleagues. Don’t make us chase you down to find out what time you’re arriving in the trade show city—or worse, nag you about approvals for layouts or graphics.
  7. An end to complaining about things we obviously can’t control: temperature in hotel rooms, noise on the street, food offerings in the exhibit hall, the color of the aisle carpet.
  8. Support from sales. We’re not taking the reps out of the field—we’re giving them access to more prospects and customers than they could possibly see in a typical day.
  9. The complete scope of content assets across channels so we can bolster already existing campaigns and build on awareness created by other media.
  10. The elimination of silos in the company. They block collaboration–and we need to be collaborative, not combative. See #9 for how this could work to everyone’s advantage.
  11. Procurement to ask us to explain the difference between buying creative services and buying commodities.
  12. Lunch with procurement once in a while; we really should get to know each other better.
  13. Product teams to understand we are creating experiences, not just putting “stuff” in our booth. We have choices—and limitations. We would like everyone to understand how it works.
  14. Transparency in charges for services. Dare I say “drayage”? We need full disclosure from show management before we sign a contract because our careers are on the line.
  15. Understanding from our finance department that we were not being short-sighted– we were not given published rates for some services before the show.
  16. Open dialog with show organizers so that all of us can be more successful.
  17. Agreement from show management that we are not just buying space; we are buying access to customers—and that access should be included in the price of the booth. Don’t come back and try to sell us attendee lists.
  18. Respect for the long hours our position demands—and the weekend work required.
  19. Staffers to be working the exhibit when they are scheduled—and the rest of the attendees from our companies to stay on the outside of the carpet line.
  20. To work with the vendors we choose, the ones we vet, the ones who really understand our business and who give us the support we need.
  21. Feedback! Lots and lots of constructive feedback.
  22. A compliment if it’s deserved—or at the very least, a thank you. Our jobs cross many invisible lines, and we do our best to make the crossings smooth.
  23. Open attitudes to new ideas and technologies; we really don’t have to continue to do things the way we’ve always done them. And if these new ideas help us measure ROI better, YES!
  24. Intelligent internal discussions about budgets, about scaling costs from show to show, about developing multi-use assets that can be used on the show floor as well as in the field. And more.
  25. A good night’s sleep.

I’m not going to sign this. Yes, maybe because I really don’t want people in my company to think they are singled out. But primarily because I don’t believe I’m speaking only for myself, but for all of us in this position. We love our jobs, and if you believe in trade shows, you’ll help us excel in what we do.

PS: We want to keep learning so don’t block educational opportunities that we find. Access’ partnership with Exhibitor Magazine and ExhibitorLive gives us some help to “learn more and earn more.”

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