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Women in the Industry: My tradeshow story

My journey has been one of surprises, excitement, and meeting some incredibly wonderful people along the way.

It began while on a trip to Colorado and meeting a man who was involved in a municipality project regarding the pros and cons for the construction of the new Denver Convention Center and New Stapleton Airport. During our brief conversation he asked if I would be interested in working on this project which required many meetings as well as many late nights putting all the information together, which ended up in a 400-page outline with finite details on the “cons” of the preliminary concepts of the two above-mentioned projects. Upon completion, we presented our findings to eight different entities.

While doing my research, I had the opportunity to discuss the “cons” with all of the upper-mountain resorts. Upon one of my many trips to Aspen, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Vail and several others, I was getting into my limo when a big Texan man asked if he could share the ride. As I did on many occasions, the answer was, “Of course, sir. Please, it will give me a chance to meet some new people.” Just then, another gentleman leaned in and asked if he could share a ride and the answer, from me, was the same. As we drove up the mountain, the snow began to fall heavily, and our conversations were diverse. The distinguished gentleman asked me what I did, and I told him I was in real estate business on Hilton Head Island and that some major changes within the company were being initiated, so I took a vacation with some friends and completed my story regarding the changes going on in Denver, Colorado.

After several hours of interesting chats and exchanging business cards, the gentlemen mentioned that he was going to the upper mountain to investigate the resorts for an upcoming sales meeting. He then popped the questions to me, “Would you be interested in arranging a sales meeting for me, perhaps on Hilton Head Island?” I told him I would love the opportunity and asked him to send his budget and details.

After this happened, three sales meetings took place. This gentleman told me I was in the wrong business and that I needed to be in the tradeshow industry. I told him I had no knowledge of that industry, and he said, “Take my card to a display house or an exhibitor appointed contractor (I&D) and tell them that I sent you and that I guarantee them a minimum of $250 + per year in labor.”

Fortunately, when I arrived in Atlanta, the first name that came to me in the yellow pages was Convention Service Inc., where I met one incredible man named Steve Cahill, who hired me, took me under his wing and taught me all the ins and outs of the tradeshow business. He is and will always be considered my mentor and most importantly, a very dear friend.

I worked for Convention Service Inc. and traveled to all major convention centers from coast to coast. I became very active in TS2 and was on the membership committee for the HCEA.

Exhibition Contractors contacted me and made me an offer I could not refuse so I left, CSI and joined ECC at the Rutherford, NJ, office where I worked with another great guy, Rich Rebecky. At this time, I also became the committee chair for the NE Chapter for TS2 and held a variety of entertaining meetings in NJ and NYC.

Shortly after moving to NJ with ECC, GES purchased Andrews Bartlett & Co; the parent company for ECC. So Rick, the entire office and I had to shut down and look for work. This was on a Monday.

On Tuesday morning, I received a call from Burt Taglianetti, president of Preferred Exhibitor Services asking if I would come down to interview with them for a sales position. I was shocked that they had heard of the ECC closing so soon, but they had not. They had heard some rumors from the show floor regarding me and wanted me to join their company. Needless to say, I was ecstatic as I had no idea where I would go or with whom. I accepted the position, and they moved me to Atlanta to start their program in that area. That relationship ended on a very sour note as PES was in distress, which I was unaware of. Within 18 months, they went out of business.

It was then I received a call from Rich Rebecky checking up on me to make sure I was ok. He mentioned that he had a friend who had recently moved to Orlando with Renaissance and had since opened up his own business and perhaps that would be a very good proposition. I gave Frank Lasley a call, and to this day, I am still working with the entire Lasley family. I plan on staying for the rest of my career.

During these 20 or so years, I have been privileged to meet so many wonderful people who are fun to be around, work hard and are always willing to give a hand. They’ll lend you a roll of tape, a ladder or anything else another company might need to complete a project because they all know “the show must go on.”

I pray for all involved in this industry as our economic condition in this country has put many, if not all, in jeopardy for a career they truly do not want to lose.

Thanks to everyone who touched my heart or just said hello or a big “high five” on the show floors and beyond. I cherish all the friendships I have made with exhibitors, executive, tradeshow managers, workers, truckers and all those loving this incredible industry.

Regards,

Sandi Strobel
International Sales
Exhibit Design & Production Inc./American Trade Show Inc.

Posted in Women in the Industry
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