What I’ve learned
It has been exactly 1 year since the world of expos, booths, exhibitors and trade associations was presented to me. Just two days after starting a brand-new job, I was thrown into the thick of my first event. I began working on a Wednesday morning and was sent to Atlanta the following Friday, to observe the production process and get a better understanding of what goes into serving events. Initially, I was overwhelmed by the volume and pace of the show. I walked by hundreds of people and thousands of products. Minutes turned into hours and walking around the show floor taking everything in, resulted in more than 6 miles clocked.
I was introduced to Fern employees from across the country, who all came together to organize and direct various operations for the upcoming week. Industry lingo, acronyms, and planning timeline details were shared as I asked question after question. The time sensitive nature and “go, go, go” of the show was intoxicating. I could see immediately how addicting this process could be. Watching an event develop from ideas on paper into reality, and knowing that the success of a show is the success of the entire team involved, would be incredibly rewarding.
It’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle— During my first year in the event industry, I’ve learned that you don’t necessarily “plan” to be in this industry. Although this might seem like an intentional play on words, it’s the truth. When you begin looking for a job and establishing yourself in a certain career, not many people immediately think of trade shows and corporate events. At least, not from the official service contractor side. Many people love planning events, or working with tourists in the hospitality network, but this world is different. It’s not only a world of managing freight, floorplans, and carpet but also of marketing support, providing new products and technology to elevate the experience, among hundreds of other things. You are thrown in, and either find the job utterly exhausting or fall in love with your work.
There are currently 34 members of Fern’s team who have worked in this industry, at Fern, for longer than I’ve been alive. This sort of longevity is incredibly impressive in any business, but especially such a fast paced and exhausting one. Working in the same industry for more than a few decades might seem draining, but in the exciting and constantly shifting nature of events, the same job can feel like five different positions all within the same year.
Evolution and Innovation — I’ve learned that challenges in the ever-changing landscape of events are what make producing them so interesting. This realm of work embodies an innovative and efficient work place. When a challenge arises, finding the best possible solution is the main objective. The best solution for the client, the best solution for the company and the best solution for the attendees who visit new locations and connect with one another. We develop new products, new services and incorporate new technology in order to give clients the best possible service they can get.
It takes a village— I’ve learned that events and tradeshows involve more than a few tables and some pipe and drape. Hundreds of hands, manual labor, and months and months of planning go into producing a 3-5 day event. There are so many small details that are considered before thousands, if not tens of thousands of people, walk into a perfectly prepared exhibit hall, worthy of awards. The transformation from an empty concrete room to what you see begins way before the week leading up to an event.
Comfort is key— Trade shows and events have a way of giving human interaction, with strangers, a security blanket. There’s something comforting about knowing everyone is in the same boat, and that everyone, though they may be there with a different purpose, they’re experiencing the same things that you are. After going to one trade show, you feel like a pro. You feel like you understand the process and know what to look for at any forthcoming event. Front door, registration, bathroom, show floor, education rooms, food. Check, check and check on the mental checklist. You’re now aware of your surroundings and the importance of signage. You’re comfortable walking and saying hello to complete strangers, because you’re all there for the same reason. An event quickly becomes a community. It feels similar to the connections you make to kids at a summer camp. You know you’re all from different backgrounds, and maybe even came with different expectations, but you leave having made connections to likeminded individuals, and countless memories to share.
In the last year, I’ve learned countless things. Most importantly, I’ve learned that an insane amount of work goes into producing and planning events. There are so many diverse people involved, different stages of information to be shared and endless details that have to be planned, revised and finalized all within a specific time frame. Having experienced numerous events over the course of the year, I have a new-found respect for this industry. Getting to know the people that make up this world and understanding the value of face-to-face interaction have made this a year one of growth and appreciation, and I can’t wait to see what the years to come have in store.