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  • Writer's pictureLarry Kulchawik

How did you Discover Exhibit Design?

Updated: Jan 24, 2018

Did you Discover the Exhibit Industry? Or did it Discover you?

I recently read an article about how most of us working in the trade show industry had discovered it by accident. Everyone has a story to tell about how they got started in the industry.

Every time I get a chance to speak about the Expo/Event Industry, to people in the expo business, I tell the same story...

“The trade show and events industry generates $100 billion in revenue in the US. It ranks #22 in contribution to the GNP, higher than agriculture and the printing industry, yet few, if any, in this room have gone to school specifically to get into it. We have each fumbled into it.” We all have our own unique story about how it all began for us. As a result, we have each discovered an industry we have grown to love, and are proud of the good for- tune that we have fallen in to.

In many cases, the educational training we received before discovering this industry directly and indirectly applied to jump-start our success. So to say that no one has training in our industry is incorrect. We all have had training in one form or the other (our college degree) that applied to make us successful in the exhibit marketing business.

The question I now raise is “Should an industry this powerful and influential continue to attract its talent by accident? Or is it time to start attracting talent on purpose?”

Why not promote and provide training programs designed to prepare our future with the needed skills to grow face to face marketing?

In spite of our many self-taught industry experts, we have become darn good at what we do for the clients we serve. Trial and error perfected iur skills. Various industry organiza- tions have developed certification programs for exhibit managers and suppliers- CTSM (Certified Trade Show Marketer), CEM (Certified Exhibit Manager), and number of oth- ers overseas. All contribute to raising the bar of professionalism with our industry.

Regarding exhibit design training, EDPA and other industry groups have supported ex- hibit design education programs for many years. The undergraduate exhibit design degree program at Bemidji State, and the master’s degree program at FIT in NYC both are as- sisted and supported by EDPA and Exhibitor Magazine. The design graduates of these college programs will not have the same stories to tell as we all have. Did you discover the exhibit industry, or did it find you? We all needed a job and began without ever realiz- ing the depth and opportunities that awaited us.

Many years ago I studied at Southern Illinois university under a professor (Buckminster Fuller) who filled me with ideas and methods to solve design problems. I then graduated with a degree in Design (and strong training in architecture) and had no idea what I would do upon graduating. Kinda scary, but more typical than not for most students with a general degree. Low and behold I found a job designing trade show exhibits and dis- covered an industry!

My good friend Richard Erschik has been in the exhibit industry for the past 44 years. He has been a top educational speaker at the Exhibitor Show for 18 years and now lives in South Florida conducting educational webinars directed to show organizers and exhibiting professionals. His communication skills are superb.

Rich recently amended his popular webinar entitled “Get

FIT/NYC Intern Program

the MOST from PRE-DURING-POST trade show exhibiting” to include a prominent sec- tion that describes expo associations as a valuable source to discover viable career oppor- tunities for college graduates and service veterans looking for work.

Aside from his involvement in the trade show industry, Rich is the president of his local Toastmasters Club, a Viet Nam veteran, the instructor of the Miami Dade college’s Young Entrepreneur’s Academy program, and an active South Dade chamber board member serving on their Marketing and Military Affairs Committees.

“When I mention dedicated industry associations and the trade show industry to college student members of Toastmasters, and the military personnel I interact with at Homestead Air Reserve Base, they never heard of either” , says Richard Erschik.

Another industry veteran, Jeff Bartle, Chief Creative Officer at 3D Exhibits, Inc got his degree in industrial design in Detroit and looked to be an auto designer. Somehow one thing led to another and he found himself designing exhibits for the auto industry. Jeff has been a major supporter of exhibit design education for many years and continues to do so.

There are many opportunities to consider in the world of trade show marketing and also museum, interior, retail, and event design. Today, design companies overlap their skills and do design projects in all these areas. The trade show industry and its suppliers must do a better job promoting our industry to skilled up and comers looking for a career. It most cases, they don’t know what they don’t know.

As the expo/event industry continues to grow we should thank our lucky stars for discovering a career we love. Let’s continue to build awareness of the trade show industry so that more will dive into it intentionally, rather than falling into the expo industry by accident.


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