Tell the World About Trade Shows

Expos mean business. They are an important part of the global economic engine. They help usher in the future of every business sector one could think of.

But do we tell people that? Not so much. How many of your friends (and family) still have no idea what you do for a living?

Last week the granddaddy of them all—CONEXPO/CON-AGG—was in Las Vegas. Watching it be built over a three-week (or longer) period was crazy! Hearing the economic impact it has on the city was jaw-dropping (more than $157.3 million, not including gaming).

Clearly, Las Vegas knows the value of trade shows, conventions and conferences—and the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority does a great job in getting the word out. But they are one of the few cities that regularly provides this kind of information to mainstream media outlets.

However, the use of UNLV Hospitality School students as directional guides in the lobbies and other places on the showfloor at CONEXPO/CON-AGG was great to see. Identified by orange T-shirts and armed with iPads, these enthusiastic future leaders of our industry did a great job. Kudos to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (and a few other shows) for giving these kids some real-life experience in our business!

Which brings me to…the education of our future industry colleagues. I’ve had the good fortune to be asked to speak with students in the undergrad and graduates in the hospitality management program at UNLV as well as master’s degree candidates at the Vandenberg School of Communications at USC. What shocks me is how few understand our industry—or want to enter it…which is our fault!

We have to do a better job explaining what we do. The International Association of Exhibitions & Events has its “Click Here First” campaign, but—no offense intended—what does “clicking” have to do with show business? U.S. Travel is trying hard, but is not exhibition-focused.

We tell our exhibitors and sponsors to use clear messaging—but somehow we forget to do so ourselves. Kind of like the shoemaker’s kids having no shoes.

I urge all of us to do a better job of “outing” our industry. We know we love it. Now is the time to clue the world in on it too.

Stephanie S. Selesnick is president of International Trade Information, a longtime global exhibition industry specialist helping U.S show organizers increase international participation in their exhibitions and a well-known speaker and trainer. Follow her on Twitter at @stephselesnick.

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Stephanie S. Selesnick is president of International Trade Information, a longtime global exhibition industry specialist helping U.S show organizers increase international participation in their exhibitions and a well-known speaker and trainer. Follow her on Twitter @stephselesnick.  ... View all articles by Stephanie Selesnick →