With the 6th installment of the Harry Potter movie series now in the theaters, and having read all 7 books to my two young daughters, my mind made the unlikely, yet oddly viable deduction that Harry Potter would make a fine trade show marketer. The two worlds are surprisingly similar.
For those of you who are both trade show marketers and Harry Potter fans, this will hopefully inspire a few “Aha’s” from you. If you are not a Harry Potter fan, perhaps this will help you better understand his world. Here are 7 reasons why, one for each year at his school, Hogwarts:
1. You Must Be Quick Witted
Trade show managers must be fast on their feet, able to quickly solve problems that flare up on the show floor. Booth didn’t show up? Your labor is late? Your exhibit was damaged? That’s your problem, mate, and the clock is ticking. And that’s just what Harry Potter says about fighting his arch enemy, Voldemort, that it takes bravery and speed, and a little luck to beat the challenge. It’s not school, it’s the real world, and you don’t get a second chance to get it right.
2. You Have Loyal Friends to Help You
While you have to be fast on your feet, you do have friends. Harry Potter has his closest friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, who stick by his side no matter what. Harry also has Professor Dumbledore to give him some advice, although often only after Harry has saved the day. Similarly, you have your exhibit house account executive, your I&D supervisor, and hopefully a mentor within your company who can guide you through the sometimes arcane and mystical world of trade shows.
3. You’re the Hero, then the Goat, then the Hero Again
You would think that a boy who has faced and survived the most powerful dark wizard would always be the hero, but in several of the Harry Potter books, Harry’s enemies make him out very publically to be the bad guy. Harry demonstrates his integrity by enduring these trials caused by forces he can’t control. Similarly, a trade show manager may have their performance judged on the basis of things they can’t control (see point #1). They keep at it despite the setbacks, eventually outlasting the doubts and becoming the hero for producing another successful show.
4. Everyone Is Watching You As You Learn
Because he was “The Boy Who Lived,” Harry Potter arrived at Hogwarts as perhaps the most famous person there. Wherever he went, people pointed and whispered, and sometimes Colin Creevy even took pictures. Professor Snape drilled him at his first potions class, as if Harry should already know all the potions. But Harry started as a first-year student like every one else, with years of schooling ahead of him. Guess what? You are also in a very visible position. When you started at trade shows, a lot of people automatically expect you to pull it off without a hitch right away. And some of those people watching you could be the CEO and the CMO. If you mess up, it won’t be missed.
5. You Have A Few Tried-And-True Tricks
Harry tells Dumbledore’s Army that he beat Voldemort when duelling in the graveyard with a simple Expelliarmus charm. Harry also uses his cloak of invisibility and the Marauder’s Map again and again to get the edge on his foes. As a trade show marketer, you have a few proven tricks to beat your trade show competition: exhibit design, promotions, and booth staff training. These three “tricks” can help you get more traffic, and more of the right traffic, into your trade show booth.
6. Quidditch is Like a Trade Show
Harry Potter’s favorite game is Quidditch, in which players try to score goals 50 feet in the air while the other team is trying to knock you off your broom. Teams win in one of two ways: by getting a lot of goals, that count 10 points each, or by catching the Golden Snitch, a small, fast-flying ball, which scores 150 points. There is no safety net but there are big crowds. Trade shows are also very public contests, where your competitor is no longer across country or across town, but now across the aisle, and they are doing everything they can to knock you down. You can also score by getting lots of leads, or by getting that one big lead that pays for the entire show and then some. And just as Harry often ends the Quidditch match by catching and holding the Golden Snitch high above his head, how often have you finished your trade show by proudly holding up your glorious pile of trade show leads?
7. You Are Capable of Magic
Harry Potter was performing magic before he even knew he was a wizard. With training at Hogwarts, he learned to harness and focus his natural talent to create even greater magic. As a marketing professional who is using trade shows to build relationships with your target audience, you can take your innate marketing skills and tailor them to create experiences that charm your customers and prospects. Work your magic well, and a larger contingent of booth visitors will want to do more business with your company. You don’t need to be a Harry Potter, but it helps.