Straight Talk with Marie Browne, Group Vice President, Reed Exhibitions
Like many trade show industry professionals, Marie Browne didn’t plan to pursue a career in events, she “fell into” it. After earning a masters degree in business administration and taking a job as director of membership and events at a business development organization, she quickly realized that the events component was the most significant part of her role — and that she had a knack for it. As if by fate, Browne’s subsequent career choices continued to land her more firmly in the events world, with a focus on connecting businesses and people.
Now, as group vice president for Reed Exhibitions, Browne leads a portfolio that includes 10 trade shows and associated digital products that cover a diverse group of industries, including pharmaceutical manufacturing, golf, optical, spirits, functional fabrics and several industrial areas. TSNN sat down with Browne to get her thoughts about where we are as an industry, where we’re headed as we move into year two of the pandemic and what she likes most about this resilient industry.
What is the biggest change your organization has had to navigate during this challenging time?
I don’t know if it’s necessarily a change, but the constant state of uncertainty has been challenging — the uncertainty about if, when and where we can hold events; when and how we will return to the office; uncertainty about jobs and employment; the future in general, new business models, etc. — and has taken a toll.
My colleagues at Reed, and really our entire industry, have demonstrated high levels of resilience during this time. The most successful way to navigate during these times is to be transparent, establish trust and maybe provide a little bit of hope.
How do you think the industry will be most changed going forward?
Here are some thoughts that are pessimistic for the commercial real estate industry but optimistic and hopeful for the trade show industry. It’s an obvious statement, but I think the commercial real estate industry will be challenged as more employees work from home permanently. And perhaps this increasingly remote workforce will be more eager and in-need to visit trade shows given they will have less face-to-face interaction (besides with their family members and pets) on a day-to-day basis.
So maybe, just maybe, instead of quickly flying in and flying out of a city for a trade show, they will extend their time to truly take advantage of discovering and buying products, education, networking and the important serendipitous moments that take place at our events.
Is virtual here to stay, or a stop-gap until live events return?
I think virtual is here to stay but the format will evolve. Virtual events will provide us an opportunity to reach new attendees and geographies that wouldn’t typically travel to events. And the learnings over the past year will allow us to truly connect with our customers throughout the year with commerce and educational opportunities — beyond just marketing our face-to-face events. I also believe hybrid events will continue as we uncover efficient ways to reach our audiences that cannot attend our events, [but] I don’t think a virtual alternative will impact our live attendance since the experience is quite different.
What have you learned most about yourself during the pandemic?
That there are many things around my house that bother me (chipping paint, old floors, the list goes on), and also that I am blessed to have the opportunity to worry about these things.
About your teams?
That they are also extremely effective at working from home and also super-creative and resilient during times of change.
What kind of self-care has been key for your mental health during these past 11 months and why?
Running outside every day, regardless of the weather. I highly recommend it for the physical and mental health benefits — even if you are slow like me.
What do you like most about working in the trade show industry?
I enjoy getting acquainted with different industries and thinking about growth opportunities. I also think that those who work in our industry are lucky in that we get to observe, first hand, how the results of our efforts play out. And of course, the people and travel are a bonus.
Finish this sentence: When we are able to travel again, I am going to go to…
Every single one of our trade shows that I am able to attend! I did cancel a trip to Panama during COVID, so I may resurrect that itinerary at some point, too.
Interested in being featured or recommending an industry professional for Straight Talk? Email TSNN Senior Editor Lisa Savas at firstname.lastname@example.org.