Trade Show Leader: Amirexx’ Margaret Pederson
Margaret Pederson entered the exhibition world by happenstance, like many in the field. She studied marketing (along with international business and law), but not exhibitions 101, 201 or 301. Pederson’s education included the University of Virginia, London School of Economics and Harvard Business School, none of which had a single course in exhibitions, conferences or events. Yet, HBS did have Bob Krakoff as an alumni and that fortuitous meeting was her introduction to the exhibition world. Pederson shed some light on her time in the industry to TSNN.
TSNN: How did you get into the industry?
Pederson: Bob Krakoff hired me to bring strategic and business planning, along with research, to Cahners Exhibitions, a smaller, more US oriented precursor of the now global Reed Exhibition Companies. This initiative was bravely endured by my colleagues, many of who are now leaders in the industry. I held a variety of operating and senior management roles at REC, crossing industries from manufacturing to technology to entertainment to medical and including both B2B and B2C events.
From there, I went to PRIMEDIA for a decade in the early 2000s, leading their exhibition, conference and events business while doing adding responsibility for publishing and initiatives in digital (in selected industries).
Global has been part of my DNA, from an undergraduate degree in Government and International Relations to living and working in London, Paris, Tokyo and Manila.
Today, I am an experienced independent board member of both private and public companies. I am on the Viad Board of Directors (parent of GES) where I serve on the Compensation and Nominating and Governance Committees and was the Charter Chair of the Innovation and Marketing Strategy Committee. I run Amirexx, a boutique consulting group that focuses on innovation, business development and strategy for middle market and private companies, helping transform organizations to meet 21st century opportunities and challenges. I work in early stage and growth company investing at Golden Seeds.
TSNN: What are some of the lessons learned being part of the industry?
Pederson: Change is a constant and inevitable so embrace it! Take your experience and expertise and apply it to new models using technology to take it to a different level or direction. Understand growth, both personal and in business, includes failure. Don’t shoot the messenger (or the team) that doesn’t succeed in every new initiative; give them bandwidth to apply the lessons learned to the next venture. Private Equity (PE) firms know this; it is why they have a portfolio of companies. They apply what is learned in one investment to others, increasing the probability of success. Likewise, I find working across different industries and situations helps me apply experience gained in one situation to others.
TSNN: What is fyour avorite part of industry?
Pederson: Creating new marketplaces is very fulfilling. Engaging with a variety of people and personalities: customers, colleagues, and strategic partners. The intellectual stimulation of crossing industries. The variety: not knowing what any given day would bring. Global perspective and work
TSNN: Anything you that you wish was still around?
Pederson: There appear to be less ‘traditional show managers’ and more specialists. I grew up in a business environment where you conceived a show and took it from start to finish: the modern version of spinning hay into gold. What a business high! On a personal note, I sometimes miss the excitement and challenge of organizing live events, especially as diverse opportunities exist to layer in experiential and entertainment components.
TSNN: Anything you are thrilled that went away?
Pederson: I’m thrilled that (at least some) of the inefficiency in the industry has been eliminated or minimized. We did so much with paper versus technology, which made the business more bureaucratic and less effective.
Today, technology is creating efficiency and augmenting engagement, both benefits to the industry.
TSNN: What do you hope is your personal impact on ihe ndustry?
Pederson: There are two areas where I hope to have had a personal impact: helping create new marketplaces by launching events and mentoring colleagues to develop the skills and experience to become leaders, entrepreneurs and skilled managers.
An example of a fulfilling business role was helping create new marketplaces in technology and emerging industries. For example, our launch of DSPx provided the forum to share research on an emerging technology, the means for start-ups to find customers and capital and the platform for the technology to develop while playing an integral part in the growth of industries being served. Turning around mature event was challenging in a different way. In launching or turning around events, I thrived on creating teams who supported both our customers and each other, occasionally producing spectacular results unexpected by industry or market conditions.
I’m proud to have been on the leading-edge, offering colleagues flexibility so that they could have both a fulfilling business and personal life. Being a wife and mother made me empathetic to the importance of all roles, the need to succeed in both at the same time. The ability to attend a school play or sporting event and hold a management position. On my team, results counted but the hour it was done or whether it was done online or in the office did not.
TSNN: What does the industry mean to you?
Pederson: Live events are core to business and human interaction. They have existed since people met outside the churches in medieval Germany to sell livestock, produce and trinkets. Community and commerce remains the core: what have changed are the specifics and the metrics. Events remain relevant and compelling.
I’m thrilled to have been part of the evolution of the exhibition and event industry from its days as ‘selling real estate’ in the form of booths to its current pivotal place creating communities. Add in digital, data, experiential marketing and onsite features, social media, 24/7/365 e-commerce, and you have the foundation for events today and tomorrow.
I’m proud to be part of today’s vibrant live event industry. I’m proud my son is taking live events to the next level, using digital and emerging marketing technology in the music industry. He uses cutting edge social and experiential marketing techniques to drive record attendance at EDM events and music festivals, creating multi-media, multi-platform entertainment.
I look forward to working with industry colleagues to create vibrant and engaged communities via the intersection of live events, digital interaction, data and entertainment.