In the latest installment of our #HeresWhy industry Q&A sessions, we interviewed Ed Several, Senior Vice President at Reed Exhibitions:
Tell us how you got started in the exhibitions and events industry.
It’s a very interesting journey! I graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in marketing. After college, I found myself in promotion and brand management at Kraft Foods, where I was classically trained in consumer-packaged goods. While I was there, I had an opportunity to lead great brands under the Kraft portfolio, which included opportunities to visit trade shows like FMI and some specialty food service events. After experiencing those, I began to take a really strong interest in the trade show industry and actually requested trade shows under my wheel of responsibilities.
As time went on, I had the opportunity to move over to Spalding Top Flite Golf, where I served as Vice President of Promotional Marketing. As part of that role, I again asked that trade shows fall under my responsibilities given my continued interest in the industry. We exhibited at the PGA Merchandise Show and the Super Show, and my close involvement with these led me to become very familiar with Reed Exhibitions, which ran the PGA show.
About 14 years ago, I had the opportunity to talk with the folks at Reed Exhibitions about how we could improve the PGA show since at the time, it was struggling. I provided my honest opinion because I wanted the show to succeed. I shared my realization and belief that trade shows are vital to industry; exhibitors, attendees, venues, contractors all have to see trade shows as being about growing the industry. When you look at healthy industries, you see they have a very strong trade show. When you look at industries that are struggling, it’s usually because there are no trade shows or weak trade shows.
During that conversation, I was under the impression that I was meeting with them just because I was a very opinionated exhibitor, but it turned out they were interviewing me. Before we were done talking, they said, “well, if you know so much and have so many of these ideas, why don’t you run the show?” And I always love a good challenge, so I said I’ll take it!
That’s how I became a trade show person. Frankly, I thought I was only going to stay in the industry for a year. Everyone said I was crazy for trying to turn around the PGA Merchandise Show because it was so challenged. Thanks to my consumer-packaged goods background, it was just natural to take a customer-centric approach using research to identify the “need” for a trade show and then create value to fill that need. We assembled a team to re-develop the Show to deliver value beyond selling booths. The Show quickly evolved into a platform where the industry tees off the business of golf, and now today, the show is THE barometer of the industry; it’s healthy and growing, and it’s even televised live on the Golf Channel all three days.
Last year was your first time attending Exhibitions Day. What was that like?
I’ll start with ‘wow!’ To be honest, I didn’t know much about it or what to expect heading into it. My boss wanted me to participate, and I’m a political junkie to begin with, so going to DC sounded like an exciting opportunity. It was really eye-opening to see that everyone shared similar problems and concerns, whether it be travel restrictions or hotel booking scams. I sat next to show organizers who I had never met and who shared the exact same concerns that I do, and it was great being able to put our voices together.
Having a chance to meet with the Congressmen and Senators and see them really understand the impact of the industry was just incredible. One thing I remember telling the representatives is if they were to ask their constituents if they attended trade shows, nine out of 10 would say yes. They’d probably be going to a variety of places like New York City, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Orlando, which are outside of that elected official’s particular state. But it’s important for them to realize the reverse is true as well – there are probably residents from other states coming into their backyard and being impacted by local governance. The legislators really followed this cross-over concept and saw that they weren’t affecting just their constituents but an entire industry.
I have a very strong passion for the industry, exhibitions and this craft, and being at Exhibitions Day talking about the issues affecting us individually and collectively was powerful. It was great to see our industry making a difference together and bringing to light the problems that we all face.
How does the industry inspire you?
I’ve learned this is the most exciting and fulfilling industry you can be in. Over the last 14 years, I have been fortunate to direct the PGA Merchandising Show, which resulted in opportunities for me to lead the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, the National Hardware Show, the Interphex Show, the ISC show, G2E, Buildings NY, EMS Today, One2One’s, Expo Ferretera, Expo Seguridad in Mexico, as well as Book Expo, BookCon and others. I have been lucky to lead 16 different events across multiple industries in the U.S., Mexico, and Brazil, and the common link is that a trade show is a vital part of growing businesses through personal interactions that cannot be duplicated by other marketing channels.
Throughout my career, it has been gratifying to know these events mean more than selling booth space. My boss, Herve Sedky, coined a phrase of “it’s not just business, it’s personal.” When you have that in mind, the act of something like securing a new exhibitor for a pharmaceutical show becomes more about being able to provide engineers with a new way of bringing medicine to market and helping improve people’s health. The same goes when you’re helping facilitate the adoption of security systems that are going to keep people safe at night. It has and always will be about a higher value reinforced by Herve’s saying it’s not just business, it’s personal.
For me, it is inspiring to see our events help a business advance and how that success enables our customers’ people to grow in their careers. I’m lucky to be surrounded at Reed Exhibitions with the greatest talent in the trade show industry that makes serving our customers not just successful but fun as well. Our teams have such a great passion for the industries we work in and a desire to continually innovate, and that makes coming to work each day super rewarding.
What is one of your favorite things about your job?
The personal relationships that are established in this industry are what keep me going. Maintaining the friendships cultivated at these annual shows and then renewing them each year makes catching up even more fun because you’re able to see how you may have impacted someone in a great way. For example, if an exhibitor gets promoted, it’s exciting to hear because that means we’ve done our job at the show to help build their business.
Are there any obstacles that you face in your day-to-day work? That the industry faces?
Change. Our industries are changing, our customers’ needs are changing, and it’s very important for us to constantly stay in front of that to adapt what we deliver. We are part of RELX, which offers Reed Exhibitions tremendous assets to stay in front of our changing landscapes and always find ways to better serve our customers. Today, we are constantly researching our customers’ fluctuating needs and environments to stay in front of the many industries we serve. It’s a lot of unknowns, which makes it both exciting and challenging. I believe Winston Churchill said, “change is the price of survival,” and it’s so true. That’s what it takes to constantly over deliver for our customers.
In your opinion, what are two things someone needs to be successful in the events industry?
I think the two things you need are passion and an orientation toward building someone’s business. Passion is about wanting to understand the industry you’re in and how you can play a role in improving your customer’s outcome. The second piece of it dovetails into that, which is the creativity of finding new and different ways of using the trade show platform to deliver experiences for attendees and exhibitors that allow them to come together and do better business.