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cowbellies and cornfields

By Jim Obermeyer

One of the things I have always liked about this industry is the great opportunity we have to learn about other industries and other companies. Part of the process of helping our clients achieve positive results at their trade shows and business events involves learning as much as we can about what they do and how they do it. Most of the time, this learning takes place in a conference room, or occasionally on a plant tour.

Or on a working dairy research farm….

I was once asked to offer recommendations to an existing client on how they could improve their VIP client tours. We jumped at the opportunity. Then we learned that the VIPs were dairy farmers and the tours took place on a 1,200-acre fully functional dairy research farm.

We were invited to spend a day with this group as they heard presentations on everything from improving heifer performance to large animal metabolism to herd health to composting technology. And then we were given an in-depth tour of the farm and all of the research facilities, including the calving operation, metabolism labs, feed barns and compost processing areas. I saw—and held—parts of a cow that I never thought I would be near.

After a full day immersed in how a dairy farm operates and how a dairy farmer works to improve the milk-producing performance of the herd, I gained a new appreciation for their business. And a better understanding of what it would take to help our client with their program for these guys. The bottom line is that I was grateful that our client allowed us to participate in this program. It really did help us help them.

As much as we all try to learn everything we can about our clients, either through Internet research, meetings with our clients and other industry-specific contacts, or attending shows and events in their industry, sometimes it takes an immersive experience such as this to really understand the issues our clients are dealing with.

I had another client in the agricultural industry, a fertilizer company I had worked with for about five years. I really enjoyed working with this client and spent a good bit of time reading and studying their industry. I had toured several related businesses and talked with numerous companies in the industry. But it wasn’t until I spent a full day on a 1,000-acre farm, riding in the combine during corn harvest, listening to the grower talk about the details of applying fertilizer and additives in varying quantities based on soil moisture content, that I began to appreciate the complexity of the process and the delicate balance between a bad year and a bumper crop.

We must apply all we know about our business to the issues and challenges our clients are facing. That’s where our expertise comes in. The more we know about what works and what doesn’t in our business, the easier it is for us to apply those solutions to the challenges we find in our clients’ programs.

What this all comes down to is improving our own knowledge of our industry. It doesn’t help for us to spend a day on a dairy farm learning about a client’s business if we can’t bring a level of experience and expertise in our business to the table. That means we’ve got to stay sharp. And that means getting involved in this industry as well…attending our industry events, listening to the experts, talking to our peers, being a part of the industry associations, and staying fresh.

After 22 years of attending Exhibitor Show and 35 years in the industry, I feel like I still learn every time I attend an industry event. I attend sessions, walk the exhibit floor and talk to lots and lots of people. And I always come away feeling the time was well worth it. I learn things I know that I will be able to apply to our clients’ challenges.

At least at these events, though, I don’t get to hold in my hands the insides of a cow. That was a very special moment…

See you on the show floor.

Jim Obermeyer has been in the tradeshow industry 35 years, both as a corporate trade show manager and exhibit house owner. He is currently a vice president at Hamilton Exhibits and can be reached at jobermeyer@hamilton-exhibits.com.


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