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The Horn Ultimatum
Walking into your boss's office and asking for a 5-percent raise is one thing. Asking for a 5-percent increase in respect is another.
or more than a decade, EXHIBITOR has invited readers to nominate themselves or their industry peers for our coveted All-Star Awards, which honor the individual accomplishments of exhibit and event managers. We've seen winners who represent the full spectrum of face-to-face marketing, from exhibitors with massive budgets and booth spaces to match, all the way down to event coordinators for unheard-of brands with 10-by-10-foot pop-ups. Some have won for developing full-fledged integrated programs, others for cutting costs, and still others for developing measurement tools that proved the value of trade shows.

It's free to enter, and winners receive a trophy, a feature story in the magazine, a one-day passport to EXHIBITOR Show, and some serious bragging rights. Furthermore, past winners have credited their All-Star Awards for helping them to earn new jobs, raises, promotions, and more respect from upper management. Still, despite everything entrants stand to gain, many are reluctant to throw their hats in the ring.

The reason I'm given more often than not is a derivation of the idea that exhibitors don't feel comfortable tooting their own horn. Sure, they'd be happy to accept an award, but for one reason or another, they feel uncomfortable nominating themselves. Some prefer to share the credit with their team, and don't want to be perceived as arrogantly overstating their role (even if they know their efforts single-handedly saved the day). Others refuse to nominate themselves, as if the act of raising one's hand is tantamount to panhandling for a trophy.

I can appreciate those who believe their teams, not they themselves, deserve to be recognized. It does, in fact, take a village to successfully execute exhibit- and event-marketing programs. And I suppose I can understand those who feel uneasy about nominating themselves for such an honor — pride is one of the seven deadly sins. Still, while sifting through comments to open-ended questions from our 2013 Salary Survey, I was struck by a recurring theme. Though many exhibit and event managers enjoy what they do and claim that upper management supports their efforts, they don't feel as though they get the respect they deserve. Many indicated that they're viewed solely as logisticians and project managers, not strategic marketers. But if just stepping up to the plate in an attempt to earn a little recognition is such a daunting task for members of our industry, how can we ever expect to be perceived as marketing MVPs?

Walking into your boss's office and asking for a 5-percent raise is one thing. Asking for a 5-percent increase in respect is another. But one important lesson I've learned is to never underestimate the power of third-party recognition. Sometimes a visible sign of respect from outside your office walls is the best way to transform how you're perceived by people within them. Is winning an All-Star Award going to change your life? Maybe not. But it just might get you the respect you're looking for, while reminding co-workers who take you for granted that you're not just a logistician — you're an award-winning marketer. And that increased respect could very well change your life for the better.

So whether you choose to enter this year's All-Star Awards competition or not, I urge you to be willing to toot your own horn. Being proud of your accomplishments doesn't make you a braggart. But if you don't own those accomplishments, you can't blame upper management for not giving you the respect you deserve. After all, you're not giving yourself the respect you deserve either. In the words of Guy Kawasaki, "If you don't toot your own horn, don't complain that there's no music."

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