Straight Talk with Paul Treanor, Senior Manager of Content and Community, Informa Markets
Right out of college, Paul Treanor landed a temporary gig fulfilling exhibitor promotional material requests at the World Floor Covering Association, the previous owner of Surfaces (now The International Surface Event – TISE). That temp job soon morphed into a permanent position as the only staff member completely dedicated to the trade show. When the association sold Surfaces to Hanley Wood Exhibitions, Treanor followed.
More than two decades later, this dedicated exhibitions professional has worked with some of the largest and fastest-growing trade and consumer shows in the nation, with a range of roles in trade show and conference planning, marketing, sales and management with Hanley Wood, dmg events USA, Comexposium and finally, at Informa Markets, where he currently serves as senior manager of content and community.
TSNN sat down with Treanor to get his thoughts about the current state of the industry as it anxiously readies for a full comeback, the lessons learned from “the great pause” and how Pilates has kept him sane and fit during quarantine.
What is the biggest change your organization has had to navigate during this challenging time?
First, I’d like to say that all opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity I have been, am now or will be affiliated.
The biggest change for us was having to navigate our trade shows through completely unchartered waters. Not just at the initial start of having to go from in-person to nearly all digital, but then crossing back again to in-person [while] taking into account local, state and national restrictions, and maintaining safety for all the event stakeholders.
How do you think the industry will be most changed going forward?
Those industry discussions over the past few years of “taking our events to 365 days a year,” well, that is here, and that’s a great thing. Trade show organizers will be focused on sharing their events with all guests who want to participate but may not be able or are unwilling to travel.
Reproducing a full trade show experience, especially for shows that require more tactile human senses to experience products, will continue to be difficult to replicate. But even this challenge may be solved as augmented and virtual reality technologies improve and are adopted into the mainstream.
What have you learned most about yourself during the pandemic?
Years ago, I did Sally Hogshead’s Fascinate Test that categorizes individuals into 49 personality archetypes, which becomes your personal brand. Mine is “The Maverick Leader,” noted as pioneering, irreverent and entrepreneurial. The pandemic brought out these skills in me, going beyond my job in the trade show industry. I’m learning to take more risks and breaking out of my comfort zone as I build out my fledgling Pilates training side-hustle, which, by the way, is 100% digital (like they are fond of saying in the tech industry, “eat your own dog food”).
About your teams?
It has strengthened our capability to collaborate and become more connected. I have been 100% remote since my hire at Informa Markets, living in Los Angeles, with the rest of my team in Dallas, Texas. In the past, I’ve felt like a little moon orbiting around a larger planet. With the team all now working remotely and technologies like instant messaging and video calls being adopted, the physical distance barrier is no longer a challenge and I’m very thankful for it. Being part of a large company with colleagues across the globe, Informa does a beautiful job of keeping everyone updated and creating environments to engage and communicate with one another.
How will the trade shows your company produces look different once live events get going again?
At the beginning of trade shows returning to in-person, there will be a bit of excited trepidation. Overall, exhibitors and attendees want to return to in-person, so the exhibit floor will ramp-up year-over-year as people feel safer and more comfortable to travel. The big change will be in the conference/seminar part of the event.
“One and done” in-person sessions are probably over and will be live-streamed to virtual attendees or at least recorded and made available for on-demand viewing. The beauty of this is it opens additional revenue streams from seminar classes/passes for purchase and sponsorships, [and can help] grow the attendee and exhibitor base.
Do you think virtual is here to stay?
Yes, as well it should be. I prefer the term “digital” rather than “virtual,” because of the augmented and virtual reality tech I’ve been exploring, which could really make events virtual. Also, virtual events shouldn’t be considered a consolation prize for not having an in-person event. If we as organizers treat our digital events as instead-of, the end-product will be second-rate.
What kind of self-care has been key for your mental health during this past year and why?
Going through certification for Pilates training has kept me very occupied — and [kept] that quarantine weight gain away. I have a small number of clients who went on the Pilates journey with me and seeing their strength and flexibility improve at the same time is extremely rewarding. I also have to thank two companies, Aperol for their spritzes, and Fluevog for the shoes I keep buying and have no place to wear.
Where is the first place you want to travel when things open up?
Hawaii by Labor Day or bust! My son and daughter-in-law are stationed in Honolulu, so my room is waiting for me and all I want to do is sit on a beach, eat malasadas and drink frozen cocktails with little umbrellas all week long.
What do you like most about working in the trade show industry?
Nothing is the same thing twice and there is always an element of change, which keeps things exciting. I have a hard time imagining work that is the same thing day after day after day.”