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Discovering the industry


Did you discover the exhibit industry? Or did it discover you?

I recently read an article about how most of us working in the tradeshow industry had discovered it by accident. Everyone has a story to tell about how they got started in the industry.

Every time I get a chance to speak about the expo/event industry to people in the exhibition business, I tell the same story, “The tradeshow and events industry generates $100 billion in revenue. It ranks No. 22 in contribution to the GNP, higher than agriculture and the printing industry, yet few, if any, in this room have gone to school specifically to get into it. We have each fumbled into it.”

We each have our own unique story about how it all began for us. As a result, we have each discovered an industry we have each grown to love, and are proud of the good fortune we have fallen into. In many cases, the educational training we received before discovering this industry directly or indirectly applied to jumpstart our success. So to say that no one has training in our industry is incorrect. In spite of our many self-taught industry experts, we have become darned good at what we do for the clients we serve. We all have had training that indirectly applied to make us successful in the exhibit marketing business.

The question I now raise: Should an industry this powerful and influential continue to attract its talent through “serendipity”? Why not promote and provide training programs designed to prepare our future with the needed skills to grow face-to-face marketing?

EDPA and other industry groups have supported education for many years. The undergraduate degree program at Bemidji State and the master’s degree program at FIT in NYC both are assisted and supported by EDPA and its company members. The graduates of these programs will not have the same stories to tell as we all have. Did you discover the exhibit industry, or did it find you? We all needed a job and began without ever realizing the depth and opportunities awaiting us.

My good friend, Richard Erschik, has been in the exhibit industry for the past 40 years. He has been a top educational speaker at the EXHIBITOR show for 18 years, and now lives in Florida conducting educational webinars directed to exhibiting professionals. Erschik amended his popular webinar entitled “Pre- During- Post Tradeshow Exhibiting” to include a preceding section that describes expo associations as a valuable source to discover viable career opportunities for college graduates and service veterans looking for work.

Aside from his involvement in the tradeshow industry, Erschik is the president of his local Toastmasters Club, a Vietnam veteran and an active board member on the Military Affairs Committee for the Homestead Chamber of Commerce in Florida.

“When I mention dedicated industry associations and the tradeshow industry to college student members of Toastmasters, and the military personnel I interact with at Homestead Air Force Base, they never heard of either” said Erschik.

There are many opportunities to consider in the world of tradeshow marketing. The tradeshow industry and its suppliers need to be more visible to them. You don’t know what you don’t know.

As the expo/event industry continues to grow, we should thank our lucky stars for our unique discoveries in finding careers we love. Let’s continue to build awareness of the tradeshow industry so that more will dive into the industry intentionally rather than falling into the expo industry by accident.

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