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After five years working behind the scenes in the group travel industry, I finally got to step onto the stage—literally—and attend my first trade show.

Hello, Toledo and the Heartland Travel Showcase!

I believe there are lessons to be learned from everything we do, whether it’s the first time or the thirty-second time you’re doing something. I’ve attended other trade shows in the past, so I did have some frame of reference going into Heartland, but I was open to learning something new. Here are the lessons I walked away with.

Don’t make assumptions. Do ask better questions. Our company sponsored the luncheon and was given the opportunity to present, which was a piece of cake for me. “I’ve got this!” is what I told the others in our office. What I didn’t get was the technology piece. I made assumptions about what was available, that our equipment was compatible, and that the whole thing would be easy. It wasn’t. Had I asked better questions in advance, I would have saved hours of troubleshooting (and stress).

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Admit it: We’ve all had those times when we just wanted to hide behind our table, avoid conversation, or escape in busy work. Step out of your comfort zone of talking to the same people or doing the same thing. Be different. Be a little daring, just like Vicki Dunlop of the Southwestern Michigan Tourism Council, was when she got out on the dance floor—by herself—and showed us all how it’s done at the opening night party.

Do learn to shut if off. Shut off your phone, your electronics, your work talk, and engage in real conversation. It’s OK to unplug from your work and live a little. You’ll learn more about your peers and prospective clients if you shut your electronics down and tune people in.

The last and most important lesson I learned: This industry really is FUN! It’s hard work, but we all know how to have fun and promote fun in our destinations. Thanks to everyone at Heartland Travel Showcase for showing this girl a good time.


Written by: Jennifer Reeves, media sales director for Groups Today and purveyor of fun.

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