• My Mommy Does Shows in Vegas

    By: Megan Tanel, Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM)

    As a title, this comes across as a bit provocative.

    It’s meant to draw the reader in thinking it’s another sad story about a child who is living through neglect while being raised by a woman practicing what some believe is the oldest profession in the world.  In reality, it does reflect an historic profession but probably not the one you were thinking of: exhibitions or more commonly known as trade shows.

    This quote came from my daughter who was 5 at the time and gave an honest answer to her kindergarten teacher when questioned why the little girl’s mom was always traveling.  And in my daughter’s understanding, there was no easy way to explain a tradeshow other than she knew it was a show and it was in Vegas.

    The origins of trade shows can be traced back thousands of years. They started as an opportunity for people to trade goods for necessities. If you look at commerce today, it is all about connecting a buyer with a seller for a transaction to take place that satisfies both of their needs.  The great value with tradeshows has been the ability to review your options, test drive the products or discuss the technology with experts in advance of purchase.

    More recently, I have read more about the negative side of tradeshows: they are expensive, a waste of time and offer no value.  But instead, I question the source of these comments.  Is the source someone who has created a plan around their own participation in a tradeshow with measurable results and clear objectives?  Or is the source someone who put an expense budget together with no clear objectives or way to track results?

    My guess is the latter, and to this I roll my eyes and think “ignorance.”

    I was lucky enough to stumble into the tradeshow industry while in college on an internship.  I never knew of its existence, but now that I look back, I think the closest I could have imagined it to was the annual Folk Fair in downtown Milwaukee, WI.  The folk fair had maybe 100 tables or booths set up promoting the understanding of different cultures through characters dressed in costume, ethnic food samples from the “exhibitors” homeland and a lot of eclectic dancing and music.  Now I understand the goal of that event was to create awareness and with awareness tolerance as well as knowledge of others and their background.

    The tradeshows I am involved in are more about commerce – selling or promoting a brand to eventually sell product or hopefully sell some product or take orders on the show floor. Sounds boring to some.  But again I roll my eyes and think “neophyte.”

    If you’ve never stepped foot on the floor of a quality tradeshow then you don’t understand its draw.  The love I have of my profession stems from the basic human necessity of human contact.  There is no better way to establish or build upon a relationship than face to face interaction.  So much is lacking in our future generations related to their ability (or lack thereof) to socialize, to connect and to simply hold a conversation. I find myself better able to come to a conclusion about a product or service I am interesting in when I’ve had the ability to get to know the company’s brand ambassadors, talk to the product experts about the benefits only this company can provide to me, and share a story about something we share in common which builds my faith in the company and its brand.

    I’m proud to be a member of the tradeshow community.  I cringe that my industry has to fight so hard for the respect it deserves. I know the value of what I bring to my tradeshow buyers and sellers and continue to work hard to increase their value at every event.  And yes, I do shows in Vegas.  I also do shows in Louisville, Nashville, Santiago (Chile), Johannesburg (South Africa) Delhi (India).  I support hundreds of brands around the world by providing them with a marketplace to sell their products to qualified buyers.

    And I know that I wouldn’t want to do anything else.