The decision to go after any certification or degree is not something one takes lightly. A lot goes into the decision: Is it right for me? Will it accelerate my career? Will I see an increase in my salary? Can I apply this knowledge in multiple industries or positions? Do I have the time?If you’re a Trade Show Specialist or Manager, there are not many educational programs available. But, if you’re ready to accelerate your career, you have an option. The CTSM certification, offered by EXHIBITOR Magazine, is the only university-affiliated program in the trade show industry.
According to EXHIBITOR Magazine’s website, the program covers a comprehensive set of knowledge and skills for trade show and corporate event marketers, including measurement, planning and execution, career development, sales and marketing, management and leadership, and international and domestic exhibiting strategies. Because of the university affiliation, you can trust that the program is consistently maintaining a high standard of excellence.
“The people that enter this program work extremely hard and become a part of a supportive group. Having this certification helps position them as the event or trade show expert, earns them respect and a proverbial seat at the table,” said Dee Silfies, Chief Learning Strategist for EXHIBITOR Magazine.
Everyone has a story to tell and a journey they’re working to accomplish. A couple weeks ago, we were able to hear stories from attendees at the EXHIBITOR Atlanta FastTrak conference that moved us. Taking a moment to look beyond industry concepts and strategies made us reflect on how lucky we are to play a role in supporting CTSM participants.
These are the journeys of three participants that inspired us, and we hope they will inspire you, too.
Marketing Communication Specialist
Milliken & Company – Spartanburg, SC
Amanda Reno is a Marketing Communication Specialist for Milliken & Company in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Reno coordinates and manages trade shows from beginning to end. This encompasses planning and execution, on top of managing the development of literature for her marketing program.
“I began my exciting career at Milliken & Company as hospitality support at the Milliken Guest House, where our company hosts our VIP guests. Over the past four years, I have been promoted twice, most recently to my new role as a Marketing Communications Specialist for the Chemical division at Milliken. As part of my responsibilities, I help to coordinate over 30 trade shows per year, which requires a high level of organization and detail.
I’ve learned a lot in a short amount of time, and while I have the talent and drive to succeed, as a single mom without a college degree, I was lacking in experience and industry knowledge. At first, I didn’t feel I was bringing as much as I could to the table in my role. I would give my input in meetings but still felt restricted by my lack of education and experience. My team and manager have been incredibly supportive of me in working to complete a bachelor’s degree; however, it’s a slow process since I only have the bandwidth for two classes at most each semester.
At the beginning of the year, my manager told me about the CTSM Certification, which I had never heard of. As a way to sharpen my trade show skills and broaden my knowledge base, he would support me each step of the way toward gaining this certification. I signed up and began classes through FastTrak in June of 2019. I took a semester off from college, and I’m moving through the program extremely fast, as I’ve attended the Chicago, Denver, and Atlanta FastTraks in the past four months. I’m finishing here in Atlanta.
Already, I feel like I provide more value to my company. All of the classes have given me valuable knowledge and understanding of the trade show world including budgeting, coordinating international events, shipping, legal, and the list goes on. Even from the first FastTrak I completed, I came back to work with a million and one ideas to be more strategic in communicating our brand at a trade show. I felt equipped with knowledge and empowered with more drive to strategically reach our customers and execute a show from beginning to end with strong organization and targeted goals.
My purpose for getting the CTSM certification is obviously to get the knowledge and bring more to the table. But it’s also providing me with immediate job security and a higher level of confidence. My journey has been full of challenges, but also full of many rewards. I know I’m doing this to construct a secure path ahead for not only myself, but also supporting my family. This is an excellent program and I highly recommend it for those looking to be equipped with the knowledge and tools to build up what they can bring to their workplace.”
Trade Show Specialist
Owens and Minor – Mechanicsville, VA
Joseph Robinson is a Trade Show Specialist for Owens and Minor in Mechanicsville, Virginia. Robinson is one of two people that oversee the logistical side of trade shows, including booth strategy, materials, shipping, set-up, and breakdown. He also handles the post-show lead retrieval, which encompasses analyzing the leads, sending to Sales, and measuring the success of the program.
“Since I was eight years old, coming from a musical family, I’ve been a musician. When I was a teen, I developed a passion for marketing. The combination of those things led to me fostering relationships in the music circuit. I got started in trade shows by working with musicians and different organizations. I would set up and tear down their booths or their stages for various conventions and trade shows. I also worked with non-profits to help them market with little to no budget.
Later, I was hired into the new client engagement center at Owens and Minor in Richmond, Virginia. I began as a Pricing Specialist, and two years later, a position as a trade show specialist opened up. My degree and experience in the music circuit and with non-profits paid off, and I got the job.
I definitely wanted to enhance my skillsets when it came to trade shows, even though I’ve been in this role for several years. That’s where the CTSM program came into play; I wanted to gain the knowledge I need from this program to implement into my everyday job. The CTSM certification is beneficial not only for those in the field long-term but also for those just starting out. It gives you the high-level AND basic knowledge you need to be successful in this industry, especially for those that have trade shows falling into their lap. It gives you the information you need to keep up with the trends and the field itself.”
Senior Account Manager
Exhibit Concepts – Dayton, OH
Regina Henning is a Senior Account Manager for Exhibit Concepts in Dayton, Ohio. Henning oversees every aspect of her clients’ projects from the initial concept meeting all the way to re-warehousing their booth property. This includes writing quotes, facilitating booth designs, acting as the liaison between the client and internal departments, managing deadlines, and acting behind the scenes to ensure everything goes smoothly on the client’s end. Henning acts as an extension of her clients’ team, and there’s not a line dividing where they begin and end.
“I am an Air Force military spouse, and my son is now in the army. Every move for us was a project. It meant a new job, new school, and learning how to navigate all the subprojects that comes with it; it’s what your life becomes. You become a jack of all trades because when you get the orders, you have to uproot and leave everything behind. You go to the next place, and you have to get a job in a hurry, and it doesn’t matter if you have a ton of experience or not. You just have to do it. Being a military spouse brought me experience in estimating and real estate, and combined, they brought me to Exhibit Concepts.
There was a position open for an Estimator, and I interviewed for the position, but it was filled internally. I went to work for another company but was laid off because it went out of business. I established a good rapport with Bart [Sakosky], who I interviewed with at ECI, and he had told me I’d be an excellent fit for an Account Management role. I reached out to Bart about the position, and he responded immediately, saying a position was open. I connected with Vicki [Fodor], and the rest was history!
After a few years in this role, I decided to get my CTSM certification to progress my career and get a better understanding of the trade show industry. I’m only getting the vendor side, and I want a glimpse into what my clients’ issues or concerns are so I can better meet their needs. Being able to serve others in a higher capacity means I’ll be trusted more, which is ultimately better for my career progression.
Getting this certification shows my leadership team has confidence and trust in me. They know I can learn from this, take the knowledge, and pay it forward. Plus, it’s great to get out of the office every now and then!
For those acquiring a CTSM, take it a step at a time, and don’t let yourself become overwhelmed by the program as a whole. That’s how I’ve handled every project I’ve encountered – I can’t think about the fact I have to move myself and my family while my husband is deployed or in training. I have to think, when is the deadline for shipping my items to storage? When do I need to get this paperwork for the school in and make sure vaccines are up to date? It’s all those little deadlines and lists that complete a whole project.”
The trade show industry is exciting but also overwhelming. We’re juggling a variety of tasks and deadlines on top of our actual lives. After experiencing this event, we realize that FastTrak and the CTSM Certification isn’t just transcripts, studying, and tests. It’s a network of incredible people with incredible stories. You’ll make connections that will last years – maybe even your lifetime.
The CTSM Certification is a tribe of diverse, passionate people, all with the goal of creating memorable experiences and develop relationships with their attendees.
While those acquiring this certification are incredibly fortunate, we’ve struck gold having the opportunity to support and champion them to success.