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The View From Poolside: Tales of a Frequent Trade Show Exhibitor – By Haley Freeman

JR RappJ.R. Rapp knows shows.

That’s because he (at right) is the director of business development and frequent trade show exhibitor for a Las Vegas-based software company that has disrupted the global pool design industry with its mission of “improving lives through 3-D experience.” Fifteen years ago, the innovators at Structure Studios envisioned a world where pool designers would cast aside their one-dimensional drawings on forest-thinning paper and introduce clients to the pools of their dreams through three-dimensional digital magic. That vision is now the industry standard, making Structure Studios the only real contender in the realm of pool design software, and a leader in landscape, hardscape and interior design.

Trade shows were fundamental to getting this leading-edge, green product to market. “They were our initial contact with the industry and a great way for us to present our product and get feedback,” J.R. said. “It’s how we did most of our sales in the beginning. Now trade shows are more of a place for us to build and maintain relationships with our customers and vendors.”

J.R. also knows green.

As an executive for a thriving, eco-friendly company housed in a stunning LEED Platinum building and whose owners drive Teslas, J.R. has watched the show floor evolve from a mosh pit of indiscriminate waste to a setting that is more thoughtful and moderate where the environment is concerned. He admits that his own company’s exhibiting practices have changed significantly. They no longer distribute paper marketing materials; they simply hand out a business card with a USB attached so customers can load their program. “You used to see people filling show bags, but they don’t want to lug printed material around with them anymore,” he said. “They just want you to send them an email.”

Another green choice the company made was to purchase a used show booth and repurpose it for their own needs. “I highly recommend buying a used show booth – it was a huge savings for us.”

For smaller shows, J.R. and his colleagues take along a portable booth they can check as luggage. He said their portables are easy travel companions, highly durable and so far, have lasted more than five years of regular use. These two exhibit options beat the old days when they used to fly into a show city and buy temporary booth furnishings, only to leave them behind. Their footprint is now smaller, their process streamlined and their show presence consistent.

Logistics often require J.R. and his team to rent ground transportation, but they prefer to stay within walkable distance to show sites and make use of hotel shuttles or public transit. Uber has also become a reliable standby. “What I love most is a city where there is a lot to do near the convention center, and it’s safe to get out and walk, and experience what the city has to offer.”

Trade shows have taken J.R. and his pool posse to numerous U.S. convention cities and points around the globe from Lyon, France, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. No matter where they go in the world, one thing remains true: shows are an intersection for the exchange of ideas and culture. “I’ve visited so many great cities. I love the River Walk in San Antonio, the awesome climate in Orlando, and the unbelievable food in New Orleans. In Dubai, it was amazing to see an ultra-modern city mixed with the ancient Middle East. In France, the exhibitors would invite you into their booths and offer you cheese, wine and sandwiches. It was a great experience.”

If you see J.R. on the show floor, say hello to my dad for me.

JR.’s favorite green quote:

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein

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