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I’m not sure how many of you out there save stuff related to the exhibit industry. I guess I would be called a “pack rat” that saved articles, surveys and newsletters that filled a four-drawer file cabinet. Someday this stuff will be useful! The problem is that I forgot what I had until it was time to sort out and lighten the load as I plan to move. Unless I am planning to write a detailed history of the expo industry, 90 percent now sits in the dumpster.

Past EDPA presidents: Jay Barnwell, Ingrid Boyd, Bruce Deckel, Doug Zegal

Past EDPA presidents: Jay Barnwell, Ingrid Boyd, Bruce Deckel, Doug Zegal

Over the years I got involved with many industry initiatives ranging from designer education, standards for safety, strategic planning and international exhibiting. During this 35-year time span, I served as president of two industry associations and worked for three of the top exhibit design firms in the U.S. as a manager. I created a separate file for each initiative and job role, and now realize that time changes everything.

The files of information only served to identify trends, innovative people and the entrepreneurial spirit that existed to create the tradeshow industry. Most of the information I saved had a five-year window of value – surveys, price ranges, marketing tactics and selling trends all have limited value. After five years, its history is kind of interesting but of little value to anyone for today’s expo market.

I found an article I wrote in 1992 titled “A Look into the Crystal Ball for Tradeshows in the USA.” The article pointed out that tradeshow marketing in the U.S. would affected by five driving forces:

  1. International participation in tradeshows throughout the world will increase dramatically. The European model of tradeshow organization will strongly influence the American marketplace.
  2. Convention Centers will be owned and managed by show organizers. Labor unions will play less of a role within these centers.
  3. Technology will play a much stronger role in tradeshow design. Lighting, visuals and customer interaction via technology will drive visitors to achieve greater awareness. Personal interaction at the booth will continue to play a strong part, but enhanced through information delivered through technology.
  4. Exhibit design will lean to rentals, and the use of predesigned custom component parts (lightboxes, fabric, portables, counters, etc.) will help drive down the cost of exhibiting. Exhibit house profit margins will decrease. Exhibit buyers will want more for less with added services.
  5. Participation accountability will be strongly emphasized from exhibit buyers. Measuring results and doing more shows for less money will be the challenge.
John Otton (2001)

John Otton (2001)

After 22 years, most of these points became reality and the industry continues to grow.

We as an industry have made incremental adjustments along the way, and we kept our noses above the water. Tracking trends, believing what we see coming and having the courage to change and reinvent ourselves helped pave the way for continued success.

Saving stuff is only useful if you do something with it. My collection of papers now sits in four trash bins waiting to be recycled.

Moe Bell, former EDPA President, being presented with the Hazel Hays Award.

Moe Bell, former EDPA President, being presented with the Hazel Hays Award.

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