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Gamers, Geeks and the Trade Show Industry


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I admit it. I’m a geek, I’m a gamer and I love toys. Don’t believe me? Check out this blog post. I also know the proverbial gamer stereotype…one of junk food, poor health and/or weight, and social inadequacies. No, I’m not calling anyone a gamer or a geek (though if you want to admit it, it’s okay… apparently it’s cool now). Unfortunately in our industry, we can fall prey to the same temptations that gamers do. Ones of convenience, time-savers and shortcuts. Ones that may seem appealing in the moment, but in the long term can do serious damage to our work and our business.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, cutting corners and not worrying about the details isn’t a way to get better at something, be it losing weight and getting healthier, or in our everyday work and business. I mean, think about it. How many different ways can you correlate cutting corners in the trade show industry to “Bad Things™” happening because of it? Here’s a handful for you just off the top of my head:

Cheap Products and/or Exhibits
Here’s an easy way to cut costs, right? There’s always something cheaper on the market that may do the job…kinda. It’s at least good enough for the short term, or that’s what we could rationalize. The reality of the situation is an old axiom that still holds true today: You Get What You Pay For. I think we’ve all heard the horror stories of cheap products failing when setting up for a show, subpar printing turning that critical PMS 485 a lovely shade of orange, and so on. These are things that can cost us clients, both current and future.

Poor Planning
The trade show industry is rife with last-minute decisions and next-day shipping woes, same-day turnarounds and rush orders. But why? Sure, everyone could point fingers at everyone else, from the end-client all the way to the shipping company and everyone in-between. But where does that get you? No where, except up a creek without a paddle when it comes time to deliver. I’m not saying that there aren’t projects when extra time just doesn’t exist, but there are Advance Warehouses for a reason, right?

Bargain-Basement Design
Don’t look at me like that…you knew it was coming at some point in this blog post. I’m a designer so of course I’m going to address the industry’s want for design on the cheap. Designers exist for a reason, and those who have the experience and knowledge have worked hard to get where they are. They deserve to be treated and paid, just like any other professional who provides a service and product. A good designer is an asset to you and your client who will bring something to the table and can even help sell when a client doesn’t want to hear from a sales person any more. The bottom line here is that good design isn’t cheap, and cheap design isn’t good.

I really could go on, but I think you get the point.

RICH_SCAN_3So what does all this have to do with me, and how I started this article in the first place? Well, in October of 2014, I weighed 281 pounds. I couldn’t run and play with my son without taking a break every two minutes and was in the worst shape of my life. I was the proverbial gamer stereotype. I’m saying this as an admission of my own past and present as a gamer, as well as a personal observation about my own subculture. Thankfully the social awkwardness was over for me sometime around the early 2000’s, but junk food, poor health and weight problems have all been a staple of my life for two decades now. In October of last year, I was given the chance to change that.

So I did.

I joined my son’s Tae Kwon Do dojang and have been training with him ever since. I completely changed my eating habits and starting tracking my caloric intake on a daily basis. I even started a monthly series on my Wargaming Blog, Miniature Tim, titled “The Road to Being a Healthier Gamer” where I hold myself accountable to hundreds of readers and thousands of page views a month.

RICH_SCAN_3I stopped cutting corners and started changing. I started DOING. That’s the key. We can affect change in ourselves and our industry if we just start doing it. It can be on a personal level because you travel so much and decide to stop the junk food on that red-eye flight, or if it can be on the professional level when you make the choice to use a higher quality product and pay a designer for his or her expertise. No matter what it is, you just have to do it.

Why am I so adamant about this outlook? Because I weighed myself last night before finishing this article. I’m down 42 pounds because I started DOING something, and stopped cutting corners for convenience.

“Do or Do Not. There is No Try.” – Yoda

About the Author
Tim Toolen is a Senior Designer at Optima Graphics, and has been in the Trade Show industry for over 15 years. He also runs a successful blog about the Tabletop Miniatures hobby at miniaturetim.blogspot.com

  1. Gary Camarato
    June 26, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Great Post Tim!

  2. Brenden Thomas
    June 26, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    Great post, but more importantly, congrats and continued success on your journey!

  3. Tony Ricci
    June 26, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    Great to hear Tim!
    Keep the faith.
    TR

  4. John Zipay
    June 26, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Tim good to see you are doing well! Great story and I hope it inspires! Thanks for sharing buddy!

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