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7 Ways Harry Potter Is Like A Trade Show Marketer

Harry Potter movie image copyright Warner Pictures
Harry Potter movie image, copyright Warner Brothers Pictures

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.

About the Author

Mike Thimmesch is the Principal at Thimmesch Marketing. For over 25 years, he has created and implemented innovative marketing, lead generation, and exhibiting strategies that profitably grow company sales and brand awareness. Mike rose to Director level at Skyline Exhibits, where he helped generate over a half million leads, resulting in over $1 billion in sales. He published 11 industry white papers and eight exhibiting books, presented over 100 trade show webinars, and wrote over 200 exhibit marketing blog posts.

9 responses to “7 Ways Harry Potter Is Like A Trade Show Marketer

  1. What a great comparison! It took me back to my first years in the trade show industry, way back when. I’ve often wondered if anyone was really ‘trained’ to understand the unique world of trade shows & events, or if they’ve all just been thrown into the mix with their magical wand and told to deliver outstanding results. That said, I believe 100% that people are capable of magic ~ both live and virtual!

  2. Bravo! As someone whose heart beat fast in anticipation for the next Harry Potter book as well as the next big trade show — your words ring loud and true. You’ve passed your O.W.L.S. with flying colors.

  3. Great points and VERY Creative! Most people just think being a trade show planner is fun and not much work. However, there is a lot of wand waving that has to happen before it magically comes together!

  4. Great article Mike. I enjoyed it very much. Trade shows are very much a world of their own with many heroes and villains. From union labor to show organizers to antagonistic attendees navigating through the many obstacles and challenges can seem like an adventure every time.

    When we meet those competitors who recommend our business when appropriate, the show organizers who go out of their way to make us happy and the union guys who make the show that much easier because of their efforts we must understand and appreciate the magic that creates!

    Have a great day!

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