As tradeshow strategist at The Exhibit Company, Jessica Turnbull has the challenging yet rewarding task of planning and executing exhibition stands and bringing brands to life through engaging displays.
A LIST Guide quizzed Jessica on her career highlights so far and the lessons she’s learnt along the way…
How long have you been in the events industry?
7 years now, and it’s breezed by!
Where did you start your career?
I was actually a real estate agent in a previous life, but when Dad pitched the idea of starting The Exhibit Company to me, it didn’t take a great deal of convincing. I have always loved design and been fascinated by buyer psychology so I thought I’d thrive in an environment that was project based and incorporated those two things.
Although it seemed scary jumping into a completely different industry, I knew that Dad’s 30 years of experience would mean that I’d have an experienced mentor. We work really well together having two different skill sets.
What are you working on at the moment?
A prototype for a “lift and learn” module that will allow customers to select a product, place it on a little pedestal and information about that product (specs, product reviews, videos etc) are sent to a touch screen. This kind of technology that really excites me because it creates an engaging user experience that’s purposeful and delivers data at the same time – triple whammy!
What’s the best thing about your job?
Gosh, I’m pretty lucky to like most aspects of my job! At a push I’d have to say it’s doing our post-show wrap up meetings because this is usually where the penny drops for my clients. They often they see logic in what I preach, but until they follow our advice and are rewarded at the end they don’t truly believe it will work for them.
Before coming to us many clients see exhibiting as just an exercise in “brand awareness” that’s an expensive and pretty mundane part of their job. So it’s when I get to hear how valuable our strategies have been in transforming their events into dollar productive, team building ones that help the team progress towards more sales, I know I’m in the right job!
What advice would you give to someone entering the field?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Oh, and also to think like a big kid (sorry, that’s two). If you don’t give yourself the space to brainstorm unhindered by judgment you’ll keep doing what you’ve always done. No matter the budget you have to play with, or your previous experience, no idea is a stupid one.
What would your dream exhibition stand look like?
Goodness, if I got to really play with an expo stand I’d be in heaven! If I wasn’t restrained by mere things like budgets I’d have to incorporate all the whizz-bang techie things! (I’m a wannabe geek).
I’ve been speaking to some clients about using facial recognition to track interactions. This is definitely the future because you can really personalise the experience. So if a monitor had three products to share, a small camera would asses if the visitor is engaged with the content or not. If they are, it has the power to give them more on the same topic and if they’re not it can offer an alternative.
This really excites me because at future shows you can collect further data on individual preferences. As our attention spans rival that of a goldfish now, I see this as a great way brands can stay relevant in an ever more competitive environment. Truthfully, it’s actually not that far off – I just need a client willing to give it a go!
Have you had any major event disasters? What happened?
A couple of years back, a truck driver taking a stand for us from NSW to QLD went missing on the road. He literally went off the grid – no phone contact, nothing! We were all in a blind panic because we had a labour team waiting at the other end to do install and the show was opening the next day. No one could give us any answers so we weren’t sure how we could fix it. We later found out that the truck driver’s brother had tragically passed away and he had to stop somewhere on the road and process the news.
Our production manager had a truck license so the following day at 5am she was waiting at a truck depot to collect the crates. We arranged double install teams to help get our stand together before the show doors opened at 10am. It was a close call, but we did it! A great lesson in how sometimes things are out of your control…
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt during your career?
Everything takes as long as you have.
What is the best event you have ever worked on and why?
A client of ours who sells capital printing equipment really focused on the full campaign in and around their exhibition. Knowing that their machines are so large that often customers don’t get to see them operating in real life in the one place, they made a real point of getting a larger stand than they usually would (500sqm) and spent two weeks in the lead up the show building machines for the show floor.
The momentum of the sales team was driven by multiple factors: inviting customers to see the machines and order on the stand, and they were also invited to a VIP event (the pre-show mail-outs were augmented reality showing the destination of the party). Each product sold had the logo of the customer who purchased it stuck onto the machine they purchased and press were invited to document the sales that took place creating an amazing buzz. We made them a large format touch screen to showcase their full range of products as they still couldn’t bring everything.
What I loved most about this client in particular was that they set the expectation to purchase off the stand. Anyone who says that their product is different, should take note because some of their machines were $1 million printers and they sold them three times over. The quote I got from the client as a testimonial was that “The biggest mistake we made was not having an A4 printer in the cafe so we could print out sales contracts!”, which is hilarious coming from a company that sold printers!
Learn more about The Exhibit Company below: