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The importance of 'showmen'

Trevor Foley explores ‘all things good’, and highlights the importance of showmen and women to your business.


For an upcoming presentation, I’ve been exploring ‘all things good’ about our industry at the moment.

Of course, the money is flowing in from everywhere, globalisation continues apace and we are starting to make strides in getting to grips with big issues such as data, content and tech. All these things allow us to better serve the communities we operate in.

‘Talent’ is always part of the industry agenda and, as part of this exercise, I’ve been looking at how we can better attract talent. I’ve been talking to a number of heads of leading events businesses and I’ve also interviewed folk who have joined our industry from other sectors. It is proving absolutely fascinating, with countless words and descriptors being used again and again to explain why and how our industry is working so well.  

I asked Clarion Chairman Simon Kimble how he would explain the constant growth and success of that business. He said: “Simple, it’s about the love of events and having many ‘showmen’ in the business. And not just one or two, but 10 or 12, always.”

He went on to say that these showmen and women are ‘the soulmakers’ – they create the soul of the business. They in turn look to ‘infect’ the teams they employ in the same way…it works!

Senior players who have joined the industry over the last decade, from sectors such as automotive, sport, airlines, healthcare, and beyond, have a lot of good things to say. A recurring theme was the sense of collaboration, community, and fun associated with our industry - something they have never experienced before.




Many said that the plethora of other industries they had worked in did not have these things, describing them as ‘painted grey’ in comparison to our vibrant world of events. It was also said that the politics often holding people back in other industries simply don’t exist in our world. The impact that a single person can have, if they have the drive, vision and determination, is limited only by imagination. 

Noting that the industry still retains a great balance between acquiring the hard skills and experience and the softer side of relationship management, NEC’s MD, Kathryn James, said: “I understand why friendships and relationships made in this industry last a lifetime. Not all sectors can say that.”

One of those I interviewed, Chris Preston, Freeman’s EMEA boss, said we all have to work very hard and to deadlines but, as an industry, we genuinely have fun doing it. Chris said that several people told him that he’d be here ‘for a year or forever’. Two and a half years in and it looks like it’s the latter.

The descriptors used speak volumes: collaborative, friendly, buzzing, vibrant, tenacious, ‘like a family’. Most of the industry players had no visibility of the industry before they joined it, so it makes sense to use this type of language when seeking to recruit talent into your business.

Ironically, it seems we have forgotten to market ourselves to the next generation. As the skills gap widens and the need for fresh talent increases, the onus is on us to attract the best and the brightest to take our industry forward. We are a creative industry that relies on a diverse set of minds, so we need to help those with diverse expertise and passions to see themselves in the dynamic and limitless role of an events professional. If we can get this right as an industry, then we’re onto a future-proof formula. 

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