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editorial





 
nyone who's ever worked with me will likely tell you I'm something of a perfectionist. And apparently I'm not alone. According to our own informal analysis of psychographic data gathered earlier this year, exhibit managers seem particularly prone to perfectionist tendencies themselves. In our booth at EXHIBITOR2009 in Las Vegas, and the TS2 show in Chicago, Exhibitor Media Group invited attendees to participate in a psychographic survey that placed them among one of six "species," tying into our "Connect With Your Species" ad campaign. A near majority of survey participants (48 percent) fell into the category of "swans" (aka "achievers"), including yours truly.

Serious about their work and play, "achievers" can often be spotted among the top Fortune 500 CEOs, where they're known for working 12- to 16-hour workdays in their passionate quest for perfection. With roughly a third of exhibit managers putting in 50 or more hour hours per week, it's no surprise to see so many swans in our industry. Still, it's remarkable for any industry to have more than half of its workers ranking in the achiever category: Psychographic research indicates achievers are said to make up only 5 to 7 percent of the general population. Whether our industry attracts achievers or simply brings out our inner swan is unclear. What is clear is that our industry is chock full of people who strive for perfection, and are disappointed with anything less.

At face value, there's nothing wrong with perfectionism. As an exhibit manager, you have to wear so many hats that a perfectionist's refusal to settle for substandard is practically a prerequisite for success. But a perfectionist's shortcomings often become apparent when perfect just isn't possible.

Last month, for example, I was talking with an exhibit manager about how her budget has been nipped and tucked to the point she's ashamed of the exhibits she sends to shows. But rather than her usual can-do attitude, the perfectionist side of her pretty much wanted to throw in the towel. It was written all over her face: If it can't be amazing, it might as well be an outright disaster. After all, in the mind of a perfectionist, there's very little middle ground - anything short of outstanding is an embarrassment.

And herein lies the message for all my fellow swans swimming in the exhibition-industry pond, trying to keep up appearances amid the waves of economic uncertainty and a constantly evolving marketing landscape: Perfection is always worth striving for, but don't throw the booth out with the bathwater.

Do your best with what you have to work with. If you can't afford those "perfect" promotional items, consider the best available option within your budgetary means. Need to downsize from your gorgeous, custom-designed 20-by-30-foot booth to a less inspiring 10-by-20-foot in-line? Make it the best damn 200-square-foot exhibit you can. Temporarily set perfection aside, and focus on the task at hand. If your program can't be perfect, it can still be damn good. Just recalibrate your own expectations and refocus your energy toward making your admittedly imperfect program perform better than initially expected.

Put forth the same amount of effort, but worry less about the little details that take an exhibit from excellent to impeccable, focusing instead on the ones that take it from average to excellent. And when it's all said and done, spend a little less time beating yourself up over what you'd do differently, and a little more time congratulating yourself on turning a sow's-ear budget into a respectable - albeit imperfect - silk-purse booth.

The only thing better than a job well done is one that couldn't possibly be done any better. But when perfect isn't possible, and excellent is too expensive, good enough just might be good enough.e

Travis Stanton, editor;
tstanton@exhibitormagazine.com

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