It has been stated that the meetings, events and trade show market in North America represents a $100 billion industry. The Meeting/Expo industry is ranked #22 in contribution to the US GNP, larger than auto industry, agriculture, and printing industries, yet very few have gone to school to prepare for entry into the business. Many of us have stumbled into the business by being in the right place at the right time. What formal education we did have always seemed to relate to our success in a strange way. In spite of this, our learning by trial and error, generated some of the most innovative and creative exhibit supplier employees who have each contributed to our collective success as exhibit designers and service suppliers.

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Around the year 2000 is when a trend to train new exhibit industry talent shifted into high gear.  Certification programs were created to train and qualify exhibit managers, like the CTSM program (Certified Trade Show Marketer), sponsored by Exhibitor Media, as well as a few other skill groups who service the industry worldwide. Exhibit designer training was also being implemented at two US universities with great success. These two schools in particular offered an undergrad degree from Bemidji State University in Minnesota, and a master degree in exhibit design at FIT in NYC. Both of these college programs are supported by EDPA member companies, and are assisted by the EDPA University Affiliation Program that was started 10 years ago.

Entry to our industry is no longer an accident, or an opportunity made available through a friend of a friend. Formal training and accurate data are now available to hone our skills to provide valuable services to the many companies who exhibit and who invest in trade show marketing for added market share.

For the seventh year, a pre-show exhibit designer student tour of theExhibitorLive Show was conducted on the day before the show officially opened. Held in Las Vegas each year, ExhibitorLive is one of the worlds top trade shows for people who do trade shows. The show tour provided the exhibit design students a behind the scenes look at specific exhibits in the process of being set up, with chaos and anxiety included. The tour begins with Larry Kulchawik providing an overview of the industry as a whole, and then Randy Acker/Exhibitor Group, President/ COO, and Carol Fojtik/Hall-Erickson who provided an answer to the question-‘ how do you plan to organize a trade show?’. The knowledge and insight provided by Randy and Carol regarding the organization of a trade show event represents a combined 60 years of experience. This wasn’t their first time at the rodeo!

The tour then visited ten exhibitors (EDPA member companies) who each represent a different speciality as exhibit suppliers: Full service exhibit house, show contractor, fabric design, portable/modular design, lighting design, flooring design, international design, and AV design. Each stop was greeted by the owners or principles of their company who then shared three Things; What is your speciality? Who is your target market? What is the strategy behind your exhibit design? Each exhibitor stop provided a new tool to place in a designers tool box. This unique tour then ended at the EDPA University Affiliation Program exhibit where each designer was given a space to display their portfolio and a space to interview for an internship, or to hire, during the next three days of the show. The spirit and generosity of the many exhibit suppliers attending ExhibitorLive continues to be encouraging proof that our industry will charge forward and be aided by the enthusiastic support from the many exhibit suppliers who have succeeded with their companies. Exhibit supplier veterans were all willing to share their knowledge with the exhibit design students who will carry the flag forward into a new future.

If you wish to volunteer to take on a design student as an intern or become a mentor, please contact the EDPA Universities Committee co-chairs- Dana Esposito at desposito@elevationee.com or Justin Dworak,jdworak@engagestar.com