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"So many books, so little time." That familiar dilemma is why EXHIBITOR asked the members of its 2019 Editorial Advisory Board to pick the titles they feel should be at the top of face-to-face marketers' reading lists. Featuring both returning favorites and a few unexpected names, this compilation is sure to enrich your downtime, whether that be on a sandy beach or during a four-hour layover.
Anyone who has managed a team knows that being the boss means playing multiple roles: taskmaster, problem-solver, and workplace therapist. Kim Scott, author of "Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity," instructs leaders on how to be better managers by balancing empathy with results-focused pragmatism. How would you summarize this book's premise?
Scott outlines a management philosophy based on two key aspects: caring personally, i.e., "Radical," and challenging directly, i.e., "Candor." In other words, it's important for managers to open up and relate to their employees on both personal and professional issues, as well as challenge those who are underperforming. This philosophy is a two-way street, however, as all team members need to be empowered to give feedback. Why do you recommend this read to your peers?
Exhibit and event managers regularly work with large groups of stakeholders, and this book provides great advice for managing these cross-functional teams by building relationships and providing honest feedback. This is essential to achieve success in our industry. Another part of the book that struck me was a passage that encourages leaders to praise in public and criticize in private. While there will always be exceptions to this rule, it is helpful to keep in mind since we often engage with our partners in very open settings. Have you applied any of Scott's principles to your own career?
I am still in the process of working to develop deeper relationships at work. This involves truly investing in my team members by sharing more than work-related information. Scott also writes about how to best engage two types of people: rock stars and superstars. Rock stars are competent and are mostly content in their current roles. Superstars are the ambitious change agents who are eager for new opportunities and challenges. Each persona benefits from a particular approach, and I'm starting to identify which camp my team members, stakeholders, and external partners fall into.
Chris LaRoy, senior manager, industry events and trade shows, Cox Automotive Inc.
How to Get the Most Out of Trade Shows
A perennial favorite on our list of must-reads, this how-to guide continues to be a vital resource for both exhibiting novices and seasoned managers. In fewer than 200 pages, author Steve Miller outlines best pre-, at-, and post-show practices that will optimize your exhibiting investment. How long were you involved in trade shows when you first read this book?
When I started at my current company, I had no experience with trade shows and was just trying to stay afloat handling the logistics. I got a grasp on things during my second year and started to think more strategically, and that's when I began reading up on best practices. This book helped me so much because it explains trade show management from beginning to end. Did any tips from the book make their way into your own program?
Definitely Miller's approach to pre-show planning. He lays out in chronological order what information and research you should gather to keep yourself on track. This is vital because it's easy to get sidetracked, but there are certain things you need to figure out early in the planning process. Why would an experienced manager benefit from reading what many consider an entry-level book?
I think a lot of exhibit managers out there have a good idea of what they need to do but sometimes don't do it because they don't have the support they need or have constantly been told "This is how we've always done it." Then the negativity sets in. This book helps you get over that hump and gives you the confidence to make a difference in your program by providing tried-and-true methods and debunking old myths and attitudes. The most recent edition of this book was published in 2000. Will someone new to exhibiting in 2019 still find valuable information here?
Absolutely! The fundamentals of show management don't really change; it's the tactics that change. For instance, how exhibitors should set their goals is a pretty established process, but the marketing tactics used to reach those specific goals will evolve with time.
Jenny Nichols, trade marketing process leader, Gojo Industries Inc.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
"The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" catapulted author Marie Kondo to the forefront of popular culture. As a result of practicing her KonMari method, millions of devoted followers have purged possessions that fail to "spark joy." Why do you recommend this book to fellow professionals in the exhibit- and event-marketing industry?
Like many face-to-face marketing managers who have been with their companies for a number of years, my program's storage facilities became overrun with odds and ends from previous campaigns, dated exhibitry, and other miscellaneous items. I'm always looking at ways to reduce clutter, and a friend directed me to this book. The method Kondo teaches provided me with a framework I could use to accomplish the needed purging. I learned that by actively seeking to reduce the volume of all the things related to my program, I could create a more efficient and, in many ways, effective approach. Who, in your opinion, should read this book?
Any experienced exhibit manager who wants to clean up an amassment of old exhibit properties, graphics, etc. Whether you're inheriting an existing program and need to take inventory before discarding unnecessary items, or you've been working in a company's exhibit-marketing department and need to declutter after years of hoarding, this book will help you understand that tidying up will give you a better sense of what you have to work with. What specific things did you find yourself purging as a result of tidying up?
We have discarded old properties from companies we acquired, along with outdated banners and graphics. That has opened up space in our warehouse for new flooring and booth properties. I've also used Kondo's organizing tips to get our event program's shared files in order. Key templates and forms used to be stored in two different locations on our server, which resulted in a few mishaps when team members accessed out-of-date files.
Start With Why
Full of references ranging from Dr. Seuss to Delta Air Lines Inc., "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action" by Simon Sinek explores the commonalities shared by influential leaders who kindle innovation and loyalty among their employees and customers. One key trait these leaders share, according to Sinek, isn't their grasp on what their organizations do, but their rock-solid belief in why they exist in the first place. How did you first come across this book?
Someone recommended I watch Sinek's TED Talk on how great leaders inspire action. I found him to be a captivating speaker and wanted to learn more about the concepts he touched on. Who do you think would benefit most from giving this book a read?
While this book is targeted at business leaders, I think its examples are relevant to practically anyone, both personally and professionally. Sinek's ideas are versatile and can be applied to one's role in any organization, a project or event, defining your personal brand, or even casual conversation. How can exhibit and event managers do as Sinek says and "start with why"?
The Golden Circle concept he illustrates is an interesting approach to planning an exhibit or event. Think of a bull's-eye. The outer circle is "What," which symbolizes what a company does or sells. The next circle is "How," which represents how a company does what it does. The center circle, "Why," denotes the company's purpose, i.e., what it stands for and why anyone should care. We marketers often fixate on the "What" and make our products the focal point of a booth, but communicating why our companies exist is what we should be aiming for. To quote Simon, "People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it." Did anything in the book surprise you?
I have never flown Southwest Airlines in my life, but after reading about the "Why" behind the company, I want to give it my business. Being aware of my own reaction to a company's purpose made me understand its importance to a brand.
Janet Dusenberry, CTSM, trade show and cause marketing manager, Medela LLC
Experience the Message
Today's consumers – particularly members of the Millennial and Gen Z demographics – show undeniable preference for brands that connect with them on an authentic level. "Experience the Message: How Experiential Marketing is Changing the Brand World" by Max Lenderman uses case studies and thorough research to show how live events can help companies do just that. How would you summarize this book's key takeaways as they relate to exhibit and event marketers?
Experiential marketing is all about creating brand engagements that are often on a smaller, more personalized scale and build word-of-mouth buzz, which is exactly what we try achieve on the trade show floor. Luckily for us exhibitors, our audiences are already somewhat segmented, so we have a relatively easier job creating experiences targeted for our specific industries. However, we still need to carefully assess our exhibits, sponsorships, and other activations and make sure they allow attendees to experience our brands in authentic, memorable ways. How did reading this book help you improve your face-to-face marketing program?
This book renewed my drive to look at every single part of our program and capitalize on any opportunity to ensure attendees have a positive interaction with our brand. For example, when an outdoor space became available at our largest trade show, I jumped to secure it, as I knew it offered a chance to do something unique outside the usual in-booth experience. We created a fun, Instagram-worthy activation with customized giveaways that were a hit with attendees. It sounds like you took a page from the business-to-consumer playbook. Do the author's case studies also feature business-to-business events?
Lenderman focuses pretty much all of his attention on B2C activations, but I am a firm believer that B2C shouldn't get to have all the fun. I think there's value in considering what elements from successful consumer-facing events will work for B2B programs.
Jessica Iden, CTSM, senior manager, conferences and conventions, Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health
The 1-Page Marketing Plan
In "The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money, and Stand Out From the Crowd," author Allan Dib lays out his streamlined approach to forming a marketing plan that will coordinate your efforts to turn prospects into customers. How does this book relate to trade shows and corporate event marketing?
The book offers several insights that can be applied to events, such as not marketing to the masses and determining which niche you're after. Dib also emphasizes the concept that customers buy from people and not corporations, which couldn't be more true. As face-to-face marketers, we have the unique opportunity to give existing and potential clients live, interactive experiences that transcend other marketing mediums. How did this book get on your radar?
A friend recommended it to me, actually. I studied marketing in college and have been working in the field ever since, so I enjoy stepping back from my day-to-day tasks and focusing on learning every once in a while. I've often found business books to be rather stuffy and theoretical, but this writer has a casual tone, and every topic is supported by a short anecdote that grounds it in the real world. While this book is a good introduction to how marketing fits into an overall business plan, it also reminds experienced managers that marketing is more than just our individual roles at our companies – a fact that is easy to lose sight of over time. Were there any other valuable reminders for face-to-face marketing veterans?
The author raises a number of points that should make experienced managers reflect on whether they are applying them to their programs. For example, marketers at any company, big or small, should know their firms' unique selling proposition (USP). After reading this book, exhibit managers who have been in their roles for a long time may realize they've lost sight of their USP, which is vital to messaging at trade shows and proving that you offer ideal solutions to your customers' pain points.
Jessica Simon, assistant manager, marketing support and events, S&C Electric Co.
The Wit & Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln
The 16th U.S. president's skills as an orator are well known, and this book by James C. Humes is a veritable encyclopedia of Lincoln's famous and obscure quotes arranged by topic. Humes also includes Lincoln's most memorable speeches along with anecdotes and unusual facts. Why recommend this read to your fellow marketers?
The base of the struggles we deal with every day are the same challenges that individuals in a wide variety of careers and roles have dealt with throughout history. Lincoln was obviously a very intelligent man with the ability to convey his wisdom through his writing, speeches, and off-the-cuff comments, all of which are found here. Also, it is the perfect book to page through
whenever you have time. We read so many articles, books, blogs, and white papers specific to our jobs that we often forget to read for pleasure, and I found this book inspirational as well as entertaining. Were there any quotes or anecdotes that resonated with you through the lens of exhibit marketing?
Different surveys show that event management ranks among the most stressful careers. There is no doubt that it takes a special personality and work ethic to excel in our field. One quote from Abe that I think about when I'm supervising installation and dismantle or interacting with attendees is "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." I often see event managers who seem miserable, but we all deal with the same frustrating issues. I choose to accept the challenges, enjoy the solutions I come up with, and do so with a smile on my face. That's a fantastic attitude to have. Has the book changed your perspective on your career in any other ways?
Lincoln once said, "I have always wanted to deal with everyone I meet candidly and honestly. If I have made any assertion not warranted by facts, and it is pointed out to me, I will withdraw it cheerfully." Marketing and salespeople often get a bad rap for stretching the truth. I feel that keeping honest about what you're selling and being polite to everyone puts your best foot forward.
Chad Stover, technical marketing manager, The Conair Group
Author Sarah Robb O'Hagan doesn't believe that one succeeds in life by following protocol or toeing the line. In "Extreme You: Step Up. Stand Out. Kick Ass. Repeat.," this executive, athlete, and entrepreneur shares how she and other "extremers" have reached their fullest potential by embracing everything that makes them unique. How does this book apply to exhibit and event managers?
The overarching theme of the book is to not be afraid to take risks and step away from what is expected. In the event-marketing industry, many of us fall into the trap of repeating what we've done year after year. It's easy to lapse into routine, but we rarely grow from that. Thinking creatively and putting our reputations on the line is certainly difficult, but beauty can be found in failure as well as success. Who do you think would benefit most from this book?
I believe any exhibit manager whose program is stuck in a rut can find value in this book. It's inspiring and makes readers question what they're currently doing and what would happen if they took a risk. Would it really be the end of the world if things didn't pan out? What can you gain if your gamble pays off? I also think anyone who feels like his or her professional career has stalled will enjoy reading the stories of how some pretty impressive people found their "extremer" selves and are thriving as a result. What was the most important lesson you walked away with?
Robb O'Hagan cites that seven out of 10 employees today are simply going through the motions at their jobs. Don't be one of them. If you feel you're following that pattern, it's time to change your approach. Above all, be true to yourself and embrace your passion! Can you share an example of how you've embraced your "extremer" self at work?
For more than a year I've been kicking around a pie-in-the-sky idea for our events program that has the potential to energize my entire company. Many of my co-workers are enthusiastic about this idea, but I've also had many detractors. But I'm sticking with it anyway because it gets me excited about what experiential marketing can be.
Noelle Luchino Feist, director of experiential and event marketing, Mindbody Inc.
Exhibit Design That Works
In "Exhibit Design That Works," exhibit-marketing consultant and blogger Marlys Arnold succinctly outlines the fundamentals of design, e.g., font styles, color theory, etc., as well as best practices for lighting and graphics. Additional chapters cover how to find design inspiration and develop effective exhibit themes and layouts. Exhibit design is a pretty broad topic. How does Arnold distill it into 150 pages?
Arnold addresses the essen-tial elements for success in a concise manner with useful examples. Despite its thin appearance, the book is surprisingly comprehensive and includes insights on booth staffing, exhibit life cycles, and definitions of key terms. By purchasing the book, you also get access to online bonus materials and resources. Which parts of the book did you find the most interesting?
I found myself underlining and highlighting numerous portions of the chapter titled "Small but Mighty," which emphasizes the importance of telling a story, making an emotional connection, and designing with the audience in mind. Another favorite was the chapter that provided tips for moving from one-way, inward-focused language to messaging that addresses attendees' wants and needs. Did any of the highlighted info impact your program?
My team and I went through the exercise of sketching out our booth layout and making adjustments that improved traffic flow and attendee engagement. We have also begun researching and identifying multisensory activations to incorporate into our program that will offer a more personalized experience. You also mentioned a chapter on messaging. Did you make any changes in that regard?
Yes, but from an intraoffice perspective. Arnold inspired me to take a closer look at improving how I communicate with co-workers who are involved with our face-to-face marketing strategies but not necessarily part of the show-site team. I often assumed they understood the value of exhibiting, but after reading this book, I am better equipped to listen to their feedback, identify their areas of concern, and present recommendations.
Annette McClure, CTSM, account manager, trade shows and events, marketing and public relations, Nationwide Children's Hospital