Making the Right Impression at your Show Exhibit

John Berthelsen1By John Berthelsen, VP-Development, PGSF

Trade show exhibitors normally have many representatives working their booth at industry trade shows. They are aware of the fact that their behavior and attitude can have an impact on successful representation of their company and its future. What they may not be aware of is the fact that it can also have an important impact on potential future employees and customers. How so you might ask?

For many years trade shows have used the last day of the show as a “student career day” and young people take field trips from area institutions to attend an educational forum and visit the show floor. In some cases, these students may have already decided to pursue a career in graphic communications. In other cases, they are still exploring options and future career paths. In any case, they are going to draw their views of the industry by the experiences that they have regarding it.

I am aware of many instances where booth personnel virtually ignore students who come to their booth. In worst cases they are treated rudely or abusively by exhibitors. What an awful impression they will have because of this kind of treatment! Here is what Melissa DiVietri, a young industry professional, relates about her experience:

“During high school, we would take a bus with our entire GC department from Michigan. Upon arrival, students were new to networking and had limited experience speaking with professionals. We were awed by the machines and equipment. But many of the exhibitors were hesitant to speak with us because we weren’t customers, or not able to buy. I attended the print show for 11 years, from student to career. I continued to attend to speak with companies that I was interested in working with. I felt turned off by many of the exhibitors, but I grew confidence to prove my worth entering the industry. My recommendation would be to open your arms and encourage students to jump into learning about the equipment, what the company has to offer, and if any internships would be available.” 

It is time that we all, collectively and as a standard method of operation, start viewing these young people as they really are: Future employees and customers that are a key to our success. Instead of looking at them as a way to get rid of excess samples or literature, or even as a nuisance, take a different approach. Spend some time talking with them, finding out what their future goals are, and recruiting them into our great industry. Perhaps we should try helping our cause instead of making it more difficult.

Companies across our industry, both on the service provider side and on the vendor side, have one constantly expressed issue. They are wondering where they are going to get new workers to replace retiring and departing employees. Today, more than ever, we are competing against many other industries to attract young people into a career in graphics.

So, the next time you have an opportunity to talk with a young person are you going to ignore them or treat them poorly? Or, are you going to encourage them to join the industry and extoll some of the virtues of the field wherein you have made your own career? You can be part of the problem, or you can be part of the solution. I encourage the latter.

The Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation (PGSF) provides tools and methods for actively attracting young people into the graphic communications industry. And, if they do so, to afford them with financial support. There are more than 7,000 alumni of our program and most are working in the industry today. Currently we are supporting 217 students, attending over 90 institutions nationally, with awards of up to $5,000 each. For more information on how you can help spread the word, visit our website at or contact me at [email protected]. Thanks for helping to build the future of the industry.



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