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Trade Show Manager

Trade Show Manager

Education and Training Varies—see profile

Salary Median—$58,748 per year

Employment Outlook Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Trade show managers are responsible for the overall production of expositions. They may manage public exhibitions, trade shows, or exhibitions sponsored by associations or professional societies. Their work begins with the choice of a site for the show and does not finish until everything has been cleared away.

Advance planning is one of the most important and time-consuming aspects of the job. Trade show managers "package" every aspect of a show before it can be sold. They must decide what type of exhibition will be held and estimate how much it will cost. These factors are vital to the pricing process and the eventual sale of the exhibition space to a buyer.

When a budget has been fixed, the trade show manager selects a location where the exhibition will take place. A number of different factors are taken into account when considering a location. There must be a suitable exhibition facility, overnight accommodations for visitors, and easy access from other areas of the country. Once a location has been chosen, the trade show manager is responsible for negotiating contracts with the city, the facility management, labor unions, and companies that will provide the services required by the exhibitors.

Having made these preparations, the trade show manager must sell the exhibit space that has been reserved. This is done by preparing and sending promotional materials to potential exhibit managers in a given industry. Advertisements are also placed in various trade magazines.

For trade shows, managers also advertise within the industry to attract possible buyers to the exhibition. Consumer exhibitions, however, need more publicity than other trade shows. When organizing consumer shows, trade show managers arrange for advertisements in newspapers and magazines and for radio and television spots.

During exhibitions, trade show managers are responsible for making sure that everything runs smoothly. They talk with exhibitors and visitors and deal with any problems that may occur. They also organize additional activities such as meetings and workshops, cocktail parties, and other social functions for exhibitors and buyers.

Not all trade show managers perform all of these functions. In large companies people may specialize in one aspect of trade show management such as advance planning or floor management. Together the specialists work as a team to produce an exposition.

Education and Training Requirements

Employers prefer to hire applicants with a bachelor's degree. Most trade show managers have a bachelor's degree in marketing, advertising, or business management. Some people in the field go on to study for a master's degree. Useful college courses include psychology, sociology, writing, communications, and business. Knowledge of a foreign language may also be helpful.

Many prospective trade show managers gain experience by organizing exhibits for a single company or working for companies that build and design exhibits. Others have experience managing conferences for hotels or other facilities. The Trade Show Exhibitors Association (formerly known as the International Exhibitors Association) also provides a number of training sessions on different aspects of trade show management.

Getting the Job

Individuals interested in becoming trade show managers can apply directly to companies that organize exhibitions. Such companies include industry trade associations and exposition management companies that produce trade and consumer shows. College placement offices may be able to help students find an entry-level position as an assistant to a show manager. Internet job sites and newspapers want ads sometimes list openings in this field.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Trade show managers usually advance by managing increasingly larger and more complex expositions with higher budgets. Many people in this field begin by organizing single exhibits for a particular company as exhibit managers and later advance to managing multiple-company trade shows. Some experienced managers begin their own businesses or act as consultants.

A trade show manager is a type of meeting and convention planner. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of meeting and convention planners was expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations between 2004 and 2014. The number of trade show companies is expected to increase as more small- and medium-sized companies use trade shows to launch new products.

Working Conditions

Most trade show managers do a great deal of traveling to different exhibition locations. Some foreign travel may be required. Before and during a trade show, managers may work long hours, including evenings and weekends. The work is often stressful because of the many details that must be attended to and the numerous deadlines that must be met.

When trade show managers are not at the site of an exhibition, they spend most of their time in modern offices. Much of this time is spent on the telephone selling exhibition space to companies and making arrangements for future shows. Most managers have a staff to assist them with their work.

Where to Go for More Information

Center for Exhibition Industry Research
8111 LBJ Freeway, Ste. 750
Dallas, TX 75251
(972) 687-9242

Trade Show Exhibitors Association
McCormick Place
2301 S. Lake Shore Dr., Ste. 1005
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 842-8732

Earnings and Benefits

According to, the median annual salary for trade show managers was $58,748 in 2006. Most companies and associations offer good benefits, which may include company cars and bonuses in addition to paid holidays and vacations and health and retirement plans. Many exhibit managers have the opportunity to travel abroad to work on international trade shows.

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