The Problem with Experience

January 3, 2017

Charles Olentine

Charlie Olentine, CEO of Consult NC Inc, has over 25 years experience in B2B publishing and from 2004 to 2016 managed the Top 50 show - International Production & Processing Expo.

"Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes." - Oscar Wilde

The lead quote of this column is all too true for me. I do not know how many times I have awakened in the middle of the night to face the challenges of things omitted in the logistics of a trade show or the realization that I possibly have made a wrong decision for a critical aspect of planning.

The lightbulb of experiencing “experience” turned on when reading an article in the stalwart publication of my generation, AARP-The Magazine (December 2016). In the article “Why Advertisers Ignore You” (referring to the older generation), the following statistics were given:




Greatest Generation

89 and older

3 million

Silent Generation


26.2 million



72.9 million

Generation X


65.9 million



75.5 million

Generation Z

18 and younger

77.9 million

In an age of data accumulation, I now realize that in gathering demographic information of attendees at the show I managed, I failed to collect the most basic of information – age. From a gut perspective, I knew that most of the attendees were probably 40 and above, but I did not pay attention to the potential of collecting the simple demographic - “age”. The show had a program that brought in a significant number of students (over 500) and a “30 Under 30” program, but that was the limit of our planning demographically by age.

Considering how fast technology has shaped our lives, it is imperative that we have an in-depth understanding of the age demographics of our attendees and relate it back to the profile of the industry we are serving. Many of us in management, in fact, do not appreciate the pace of change. Consider that the iPhone was not released until January 2007. In a short 10 years, the manner in which we structure our lives has been totally changed by a simple device. Our ability to collect information and use it strategically has grown exponentially. And the pace is getting faster. Consider how the concepts of artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and the cloud will drive change in the very near future.

I am sure the tech shows and media/marketing-related shows poll their respective attendees for “age”, but for a large number of shows in the manufacturing and traditional old line industries, there is not enough attention to this type of data. Many in show management need a wake-up call as the trade shows in the very near future will be very different from those of today and demographics related to addressing age-related life styles and attitudes will drive the change.

To quote Bob Dylan:

The line it is drawn

The curse it is cast

The slowest now

Will later be fast

As the present now

Will later be past

The order is rapidly fading

And the first one now will later be last

Cause the times they are a-changing

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Partner Voices

As event professionals and destinations adjust, adapt and evolve in these uncharted waters, it is imperative that substantial resources be put in place for all of the people responsible for planning and executing trade shows, expositions and conventions. An example is Mohegan Sun, which built an industry-leading, COVID-19 Resource Center with a combination of pictures from recently held successful events (the property reopened on May 1, 2020) along with several widely available and informative documents, such as an evolving operational framework: