The Rookie Diaries: 7 (MAJOR) things I learned in my first year as a Project Manager in the trade show industry
January 05, 2017
1. There is ALWAYS something new to learn: NEVER assume you know everything. Whether it’s your first month or your 10th year, there is always something new to learn within the tradeshow industry. Whether it’s a new product, a new technology, or a new super awesome company/industry that wants to exhibit their cool new product, this industry is rich with new learning experiences.
2. Document everything: I mean EVERYTHING. Even if you have a phone conversation to clarify details, follow up with an email. You seriously never know when you are going to need to reference a previous conversation or look up an old tracking number or dig through years of old invoices to find something that you REALLY need. Not to mention, there are so many spokes to the wheel that allows your booth or your show to run smoothly so you never know when you are going to need to pass on valuable information to another team member or contact at a show.
3. Learn to let go of control: For us control-freak-perfectionists out there this is a hard one. If I could, I would design the booth, manufacture it, deliver it and build it all by myself just to ensure that everything went JUST right. But unfortunately I can’t do that. The best that I can do is to ensure that I have all of the information that each and every person involved in my project needs. That information also needs to be as clear and precise as possible. People only know as much about a project as I tell them, so it’s my job to make sure I am passing on the best info ever. Oh, and did I mention it’s really important to document this?
4. Plan ahead: If you care about a budget AT ALL, this one is key. I don’t care who you are and what role you are playing in this industry; we all know that tradeshows are expensive!! But, we don’t have to burn such a huge hole in corporate and our own wallets if we just plan ahead! Planning ahead can help you avoid rush design charges, rush production charges, expedited shipping fees, receiving fees at warehouses for deliveries past deadlines, multiple drayage fees for multiple shipments that could have been consolidated, post billing from labor crews, and expensive travel and hotel costs because of late booking…just to name a few!
5. Have trust in your team: This one goes along with learning to let go of control. You have a whole team of people out there who are there to support you and help guide you to the right answers or solution. More times than not, getting a booth successfully to and from a show is a team effort. Be gracious, and let your team know that you trust them and thank them for their hard work and in return they are more inclined and willing to smoothly and successfully execute the task at hand.
6. No one actually knows what is going on: I say this one all in good fun. Of course people know how to do their jobs. But when it comes to trade shows, there are too many variables to count sometimes and it is nearly impossible to be an expert on every single variable. But that’s why it’s important to just ASK QUESTIONS. Every show is different and almost every show that you work on, you’ll be answering to someone new. So person A in Las Vegas, who you think should have all of the answers to your questions, is really only trained to handle “x,y,z” so they are going to have to transfer you to person B who is actually not wanting to give you inaccurate information about your unique question so you’re going to have to contact person C. Just be patient. Learn from the process and have faith in the people just trying to do their jobs. And just now that certain rules and implementations are in place for reasons that you may not understand until you come across a unique situation where those rules save you!
7. Breathe: When in doubt, just go pour yourself another cup of coffee, take a deep breath and power through!