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Continuing Education
"He who learns but does not think is lost!
He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger."

— Confucius


You're not doing your organization or this industry any favors by bringing down the bell curve.
Recently, I conducted a survey about the confidence and competency of exhibit and event marketers. In addition to asking these marketers to rank the severity of various challenges, ranging from measuring the value of trade shows to obtaining support from upper management, I inquired about their experience with and interest in professional education. But when I sat down to analyze the data, I was struck by a sobering reality: Twenty-nine percent of respondents indicated they were uninterested in learning about exhibit marketing and management.

That's troubling enough considering that a near majority of exhibitors have held their position for three years or less, and respondents claim it takes at least three years of on-the-job learning to be successful. But what's even more disturbing is that one-third of the marketers who weren't interested in education also admitted they do not yet know and understand the industry's best practices. Essentially, one in 10 exhibitors told us "No, I don't know how to effectively do my job. And I'm not interested in learning. Thank you very much."

Granted, the other two-thirds of marketers uninterested in education shouldn't be off the hook either. Just because you believe you understand the industry's best practices doesn't mean there's nothing left to learn. French composer Michel Legrand once wrote "The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know." In other words, we oftentimes don't know what we don't know. And to believe that we've hit the glass ceiling of education and enlightenment is both absurd and extremely arrogant.

If I'd asked that 29 percent of survey respondents whether they'd be interested in maximizing the return on their companies' trade show investment, doubling their booth traffic, or increasing the number of qualified leads they collect, I would certainly expect a unanimous "yes." After all, we all want to be successful, right? But just as a horde of highly qualified buyers isn't likely to waltz into your booth with purchase orders in hand, success isn't likely to come to those unwilling to put forth a little effort.

So if you're among the 9 percent of marketers who don't know and won't learn, pack up your things and make room for someone who genuinely wants the job. You're not doing your organization or this industry any favors by bringing down the bell curve and contributing to the misperception that exhibit marketing is less of an artful science and more of a logistical to-do list. And if you're one of the other marketers who is uninterested in education because you're already a trade show genius, I urge you to open that brainy little mind of yours and try to wrap your head around the reality that no matter how much experience you have or how successful your exhibit-marketing program is, there's always room for improvement. Similarly, regardless of how much education you've completed and information you've amassed, there's always something left to learn.

I've been in this industry for more than a dozen years, but I'm routinely shocked by just how much I don't yet know. And I've sat alongside veteran exhibit managers at EXHIBITORLIVE, and watched them have multiple light-bulb moments during the course of a 90-minute educational session. Those marketers are neither inexperienced nor ignorant; they're simply smart enough to realize it's impossible to know everything — especially in an ever-changing industry such as this one. We owe it to ourselves, our organizations, and our industry to never stop learning (even when we think we know it all). E


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