My first exposure to the phrase ‘together everyone achieves more’ came in 1985. I was trade show manager for a large defense contractor and our largest trade show of the year was going to include the launch of a major new CAD/CAM software product. Along with the new software, our hardware provider was launching a new workstation to go along with it. If that wasn’t enough, to create more of a buzz on the show floor, we were debuting a new exhibit property as well.
Banners hung all over our offices for several months leading up to the show proclaiming “T.E.A.M. 85”. Each banner was signed by members of the software development, hardware procurement and trade show marketing teams responsible for getting everything developed, procured, designed, built, delivered and installed for the show opening.
On the evening after the first day of the show, the CEO hosted a hospitality event for the entire team, and in his suite he had hung all of the TEAM 85 banners that had been placed around our building for the previous six months. In his toast he made it very clear that were it not for the hard work and dedication of each and every member of this team our successful launch would not have been possible.
What he did not do was take any of the credit for himself, or lay undo credit on any of the senior management team. He knew what kind of effort had been put forth by a large number of people, and he was not going to miss an opportunity to thank them, and to celebrate the team’s success.
That single event, very early in my professional career, left a mark on me. The idea of ‘team’ has been a part of my business style from that day forward. Whether it was working with a disparate group from all parts of the company to create a corporate show, managing my own team of sales professionals, or working with an all-volunteer team with my son’s Cub Scout pack, the concept of ‘together everyone achieves more’ has played out time and time again.
In my column a few months ago on leadership I made mention of one of my favorite movies – Apollo 13. It just so happens that this movie was playing on TV the other night and I got to see it again. This concept of the team could not have a better reference than that event in our history. It took an incredible amount of teamwork – both inside the Apollo space capsule and at NASA’s space flight center in Houston – to get the astronauts back to earth alive. And when they finally made it back to earth, the celebration was widespread – as it should have been. It was truly a team effort.
In our industry and in our businesses, we do much the same thing on a daily basis. Not saving lives of astronauts – but pulling together an incredible amount of players both inside and outside of our companies to create the face to face marketing environments we do for our clients. Anyone working in this industry will do well to grasp this team concept very early on. This is not a place where the individual outshines the team.
Sure, there are stars, and there are moments where the individual shines, but to produce the kind of product we do in this industry takes a team. Account executives who understand the strategic direction of the client’s marketing program, account managers who handle all the tactical issues of show services, graphics managers who can spot an error on an image instantly, skilled craftsmen who build properties and supervise their installation on the show floor.
Freight carriers who know what a marshalling yard is, I&D teams that can make miracles happen on a show floor. And on and on it goes. The reality is that in order for us to be successful at making our clients look great on the show, we have to rely on the efforts of a large number of people. People dedicated to doing it and doing it right.
If I were to give one piece of advice to someone new to this industry or new to my company it would be to understand the importance of the team, respect the individuals and their area of expertise on the team, and celebrate success as a team.
Just as we did back in 1985.
See you on the show floor.
Jim Obermeyer has been in the trade show industry over 30 years, both as a corporate trade show manager and exhibit house executive. He is a partner at Reveal, a trade show marketing firm. He can be reached at email@example.com.