As a one-of-a-kind risk taker, E. Jane Lorimer, MBA, CME, made major strides for women and helped shape the present-day tradeshow industry.
To understand the overall exhibitions industry, she jumped into all major aspects of it. Wearing a variety of hats, Lorimer became a pioneer, leader and notable speaker as well as a knowledgeable consultant, marketing professional, writer, and forecaster and analyst.
During her more than 30 years in the tradeshow industry, Lorimer served some of the most well-known organizations – Trade Show Bureau (now CEIR), Exhibitgroup/Giltspur (now GES) and Trade Show Exhibitors Association (now forming E2MA with EACA).
Not only did she sustain a consulting business, but she also rose as an in-demand speaker due to her constantly growing level of expertise.
Each of Lorimer’s endeavors contributed to her growth and respect within the industry, defining what she can still bring to the table today.
The consultant hat
Since 1989, Lorimer has engaged with various clients through her consulting practice, Lorimer Consulting Group. Her specialties are research, strategic planning and business development. She also partnered and worked with Marketech360 Founder Marc Goldberg to develop his company’s measurement business.
Ask anyone – Lorimer continues to have a hefty knowledge of issues facing exhibitors, suppliers and show organizers as well as sales and marketing. Much of this came from her spending years researching and analyzing trends and forecasting how they could affect the tradeshow industry.
Even though she no longer keeps tabs on all the players, as she became accustomed to while at Exhibitgroup/Giltspur, Lorimer’s clients and anyone who chats with her still benefit from her deep understanding of the industry.
As the exhibition industry evolved, so did Lorimer. She constantly reinvented herself at major stages of her career. This not only challenged her professionally, and personally, but it allowed her to continue serving the industry better than ever with a fresher perspective.
“This is what drives me — I get bored every four or five years of doing the same job. Companies that let me reinvent myself or let me learn, grow and do something different are where I stayed the longest. Coors was the longest company I ever worked for,” stated Lorimer.
The sales and marketing hat
Lorimer demonstrated her value early on in her first tradeshow career at Coors Brewing Co. (renamed Miller Coors Molson). She was the first female “beer rep” for Coors, and after four years, she left the field to pioneer a public relations program for the company.
While at Coors, Lorimer migrated from area sales manager to the manager of corporate tradeshows. While there, she developed a campaign called Reach Out, which was designed to help Coors overcome negative publicity through a grassroots public exhibit program that highlighted the best of the company. Because of this success, other Coors’ departments asked for help. Within two years, Lorimer’s department was producing about 250 events a year.
At that time, the Coors leadership believed managers should be experts in their respective fields, so Coors supported Lorimer getting an MBA and becoming a board member with International Exhibitors Association (IEA), later known as Trade Show Exhibitors Association.
“That time with Coors and IEA was also a major learning curve about the value of shows in the marketing mix,” she added.
Deciding to leave Coors involved a lot of tears for Lorimer, but her next big adventure was to come. She started her consulting business– Miller Freeman, a former major show organizer, was her first client. This new business played a role in Lorimer becoming Trade Show Bureau’s (TSB) leading lady by 1990.
The research hat
As the second president and CEO of TSB, Lorimer paved the way for many women to enter major executive roles usually held by men.
Invited by the TSB search committee to put her “hat in the ring” after Bill Mee exited the role, Lorimer received the position after taking a creative approach that impressed the committee.
“One of the search committee members [Jan Spiezny] knew that I had a consulting business. He thought applying to TSB would help my business. All the major players went to TS2 [Show]. I had access to all the segments – organizers, builders, exhibitors and suppliers. The search committee gave all the final candidates interview questions, and I used those questions to put together a survey. I interviewed people from all walks of the industry to get their take,” she explained.
Known as the tradeshow about tradeshows, TS2 preceded and competed with EXHIBITOR before it closed in 2004. But in the 90s, TS2 was still a force to be reckoned with and the best place to network. Based on attendees’ responses to her questions, Lorimer created a business plan, and once viewed by the search committee, she earned the job.
“I kept using those same questions [given by the search committee] to conduct interviews at power breakfasts and used the feedback to continually make changes that helped us grow. At TSB, we also revamped the way research was presented. It had a USA Today kind of format to make it more reader friendly and meaningful,” Lorimer stated.
What Lorimer will always be proud of is setting up a specialty library at TSB. She hired a librarian, Patricia Smith, who effectively organized 109 boxes of printed research. Smith catalogued files into a software program so that specific data could be found more easily. TSB also subscribed to library search engines, which helped them produce special reports for organizations, such as Consumer Electronics Association and Healthcare Convention and Exhibitors Association.
Lorimer also spearheaded the creation of a publication containing facts, figures and economic impact about the U.S. tradeshow industry, which was distributed to every major media organization across the country and internationally.
“The Bureau was like the Got Milk campaign, which didn’t direct what brand of milk you drank. We just said use tradeshows in your marketing mix. We had people who became industry experts and used our research as launching pads — not that they weren’t good on their own two feet. We gave them better foundations and places to look for information,” she explained.
The analyst and forecaster hat
When her time at TSB ended in mid-1994, Lorimer’s consulting business was there to guide her. She spent two years as a consultant for Exhibitgroup and was hired by the company after its merger with Giltspur. Under the leadership of then President and CEO, and her mentor, Charles J. Corsentino, Lorimer thrived.
“I liked working with Charlie. He said, ‘Always wear your consulting hat, so you don’t become a yes man,’” she stated.
Corsentino expanded her financial understanding of business and gave her responsibilities that included sales and client development, working with the merger and acquisition teams, and monitoring trend/industry analysis. She also served as the primary architect of the annual operations plan.
In the 90s, a wave of mergers and acquisitions washed over the industry. Lorimer watched how the trend affected competitors and how it could potentially affect Exhibitgroup/Giltspur. She also advised Corsentino on potential mergers and acquisitions by looking at key business metrics.
Ending her time at Exhibitgroup /Giltspur in 2001, her consulting business and the need for something new called to her again.
Though she has retired a time or two, clients in and out of the tradeshow industry attracted her back with intriguing challenges, which keeps her hand in the game today.
Lorimer tips her hat off to these people…
Even though Lorimer paved the way for many women and organizations in the industry, she recognizes mentors and those who contributed to her success: [Coors] Bill Coors, ‘Swede’ Johnson and Bud Wydman. [Tradeshow industry] Stephen J. Barry Jr., Charles J. Corsentino, Bob Dallmeyer , Marc Goldberg, Darlene Gudea, Daryl Hamilton , John Mooney, Patricia Smith, Jan Spiezny and Jerry Van Dyke.