• #HeresWhy Q&A: Mark Bogdansky

    In our next installment of our #HeresWhy industry Q&A sessions, we interviewed Mark Bogdansky, Senior Director, Meetings and Events for Auto Care Association:

    How did you get started in the exhibitions and events industry?

    When I was in high school, my mother was working for medical association that always needed some help with their annual meeting. It took place during the summer, so I worked for them during my summer breaks all the way through college.

    After I graduated, I took some years off from the industry and did a few different things — found myself overseas, not really sure what I wanted to do. I ended up receiving a phone call from a friend who was looking to fill a temporary position in her office’s meetings department. I did that for a little while, and as that position came to a close, the company decided they were going to bring exhibits management in-house and wanted to know if I was interested in taking on the job. I thought it looked like a great opportunity, so I went for it.

    I worked for the Heart Rhythm Society for a number of years before moving to my next job with the National Retail Federation. That opportunity resulted from a connection I made at an industry function. There were only a few of us in the NRF exhibits department, but I worked my way up to Vice President of Exhibits. I was with them for 11 years, and then recently in November, I moved to the Auto Care Association. I’m doing a few things for them –business development for international trade show alliances and managing several shows. I love it so far and am really happy here, and it wouldn’t surprise me if I still had the same phone number in five years.

    Why should people consider or pursue a career in the exhibitions and events industry?

    One thing I really like about this industry is that no two days are the same, which keeps things interesting. As much as I may plan my day or week, it’s going to change almost hourly. I’m not the type of person who can handle the same structure day after day. I have a lot of respect for the people who do, but if I tried to be an accountant and do tax returns six months out of the year, I would not be happy.

    This is an industry that allows you to do a lot of different things, and whatever your interests are, you can find something in this industry.

    What’s been your favorite destination so far in your career?

    I’ve been able to see a lot of this country but domestically speaking, I love San Diego. The weather, the atmosphere, the people – I just absolutely love it.

    The opportunity to travel and see different things is one of my favorite parts of this industry. I was in Taiwan for a trade show several weeks ago when it dawned on me that if I weren’t part of this industry, I never would’ve gone to Taiwan.

    What is your most memorable moment thus far?

    I’ve always been really proud of the shows and exhibits we’ve been able to put on. Whether we implemented some cool, new technology or made sure there was plenty of business getting done on the show floor, we were always looking to make things better.

    For example, when I was at NRF, there was a conference we ended up turning into a fast-growing, highly popular trade show. Additionally, we were able to continually make our largest show bigger and better from an exhibit stand point and trade show stand point.

    This industry is somewhat like sports – just as you’re always working towards a game or playoffs, you’re always working toward an event. You ramp up your time and effort right before each show, and then once that one is complete, you start gearing up for the next one.

    Why are trade shows important?

    I’ve always been impressed by the fact that the industry touches absolutely everybody in some shape or form, sometimes in ways you might not recognize. As we like to say, there isn’t a zip code in the country that’s not affected by the trade show industry in some way. Whether something is purchased from a store or someone is benefiting from a service, chances are you can trace the product and the education back to a trade show. Ecommerce is also being affected now — there are trade shows where people are learning how to help consumers and businesses shop online.

    That goes to say, there are trade shows and associations for everything out there, including hobbies and interests. There are shows for people who like My Little Pony, who are into goth, who do wizardry, and that carries all the way up into every type of business.

    On top of all of that, I think the impact of the industry on the economy can be lost. When conventions and shows come into a city and funnel millions of dollars into the local economy over a week, that’s a lot of jobs, money, and tax revenue. And that’s not something you’re going to get just from tourism. Take the Super Bowl or All-Star Weekends for example — the games are of course important but now they’re not nearly as important from an economic standpoint as all of the other supporting events and activities that are going on with it, which typically includes some sort of trade show component. When you’re not part of the industry, you don’t realize how many people it touches, how much money it produces and that there is a trade show for literally everything.

    Are you seeing any wide-spread trends?

    The trend I’m seeing is everyone wants to stay on the cutting edge of technology, and that can mean something different for each show and market. For some shows, this might mean getting a mobile app for the first time. For others, this means trying to apply the coolest, latest technology to their events. For example, when the Pokemon Go app came out and people were going all over the city for it, two weeks later, trade show planners started asking how to incorporate a similar app or game to their show. Everyone wants to achieve and maintain the high-profile technology aspect, which is a great thing because it forces us an industry to constantly be evolving and looking for what that next thing is.

    Tell us more about your experience with Exhibitions Day and why is advocacy important.

    Exhibitions Day is the one day out of the year when we’re able to get in front of people who are making decisions that will impact our industry from a law perspective. These people are part of the general public in the sense that they’re not familiar with the exhibitions and events industry, so they don’t realize what the economic impact is most of the time until you actually sit down and put numbers in front of them. As soon as you start doing that, their eyes widen and they get it.

    Everyone wants to be able to relate things back to their state or district, so when we provide them with practical information such as how many local jobs the industry supports and how much money it’s bringing in, they realize what’s going on and that they need to take our industry seriously. We’re not just people going to Vegas to have a good time for a week.

    I really enjoy doing Exhibitions Day. Yes, my feet hurt from walking all day and it’s hot as all get out in DC in June, but I leave feeling like I actually contributed something. Without it, our representatives will never know or understand our impact. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to a staffer or an actually representative, the messaging is the same. It’s our best opportunity to tell them they need to be aware of the industry as well as the things that are important to the industry, and here’s why.



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