I just spent my summer in Florida. I typically hate Florida. It’s ridiculously hot! I hate to be that person but it’s a different type of hot. People think Statesboro humidity levels are unbearable. Try walking outside in Florida heat after it just rained (which is just about everyday). It’s like the universe is sweating all over you! The air is so moist sometimes it’s hard to breath. But, I spent my whole summer in Florida and it was one of the best summers of my life.
A year ago, I was talking to a friend about my plans to become an event planner. I talked about how I was planning to get into Art and Theater event planning. Then, he told me his sister, Natasha, was an event specialist at a company called Sun Nuclear. The company sells medical devices and his sister mostly worked on tradeshows. The company’s marketing department was pretty small and the always needed help. He thought she could really probably use an intern for the summer. It wasn’t exactly the direction I wanted to go in but I knew the experience would invaluable. I told him to make the connection.
A few months and an internship acceptance letter later, I got a call from Natasha. She told me that she got offered a better higher paying job and that she would be leaving Sun Nuclear the week after I was to start my internship. I was shocked! I didn’t know what any of it would have meant. Would my offer be revoked? Would I be working on the event myself? Would there be someone else to take her place while I was there? The one thing I knew for sure was that if I got the opportunity to work on this trade show, the biggest one of the year in this industry, I would be beyond excited. She told me that before they decided to keep me on, I was to have one more phone interview with the Human Resources director and the man I would be working under directly, the CEO of the company.
I can’t exactly remember what I said in that interview. I just knew I seemed confident. I tried my hardest to make it seem like I could handle the responsibility of putting this trade show together all by myself as a college junior. I found it easy to convey that since I had no clue what I was actually getting myself into.
My plan worked. I spent my first week getting an AAPM ( American Association of Physicist in Medicine) crash course. Natasha quickly turned me into her apprentice. We got so much done that first week all while preparing for the next 10 weeks. (Thankfully, Natasha agreed to come in once a week to check on my progress help me with task, and she composed precise a task list for to follow. She also opened her home to me. Giving me a comfortable place to stay and answering my questions on a daily basis. I don’t have words to fully describe how much I appreciate Natasha and her husband for all they’ve done).
The next 10 weeks were a blur. I became immersed in shipping details, Sun Nuclear products, labor, electrical details, and product datasheets. I was becoming more organized, more proactive, more reliable. I was not only learning a whole lot about the trades how industry, I was also learning about myself as an event planner. I was becoming more efficient and Jeff, the CEO of the company and my direct superior noticed.
I think one of the most intimidating thing about the whole thing was working under Jeff. I only was able to get real time with him about twice a week at our 2 weekly meetings. Most weeks at least one of our meetings got canceled. In those few 1 hour meetings I had to get everything I possibly could approved at that time. This wouldn’t have been that big a deal if I wasn’t responsible for thousands of dollars in fees, forms, and equipment. But, Natasha taught me well. She was my Obie Wan. She taught me how to do the job as if I was a pro and luckily, I picked up fast. As time passed by faster and faster, the more confident I felt about the task at hand. I always had this fear of failure that caused me not to try anything. In the trade show industry, you don’t have time for fear. All you have time for is making things happen and this was one of the most important lesson I learned.
Finally, the trade show came and I felt a little more in my element. I have quite a few years of theater planning under my belt. Trade shows are, shockingly, a lot like putting on a production. Once all your logistics are done and everyone has made it to the show it’s like planning for opening night. First you work with you labor team to get your booth assembled or “Installed”. Install is like building your set. Then you get members from your cast (sales people) all your surfaces cleaned, products and equipment placed, and literature out and ready. This is all so much like set dressing . And of course the costumes (suits, and Sun Nuclear Button downs) and you cast starts selling the products (which takes some serious acting skills).
I enjoyed every minute of being at the show. Your trade show team becomes a family and we work hard all day and unwind at night. You get to know people pretty quickly. I was also fascinated by the trade show booth. The creativity you get to use in designing those things. I could look at them for hours.
I’ve always been a planner. I always planned my future 5 years in advance. I want _______ job in _______ city getting paid ______. Done. Stick to the plan. Always know exactly what you want. But in my experience as the “world oldest under grad” you would think that, by now, I would have learned the most important rule of event planning (especially trade shows). You can’t plan everything. Things will go wrong but, what makes you a good planner is being able to fix the problem creatively, quickly, and efficiently.
I was convinced I hated Florida. The heat was unbearable. I was never a beach bum. I hate tourist attractions. But this summer, for a short time, I loved Florida. I never though about working in the medical industry. It was never something that struck my interest. But this summer, for a short time, I was fascinated by it. How the devices worked. What made Sun’s products better ( or in a few cases worst) than our competition? And the trade show industry was a back up plan something I would do if I absolutely had to. But this summer, for a short time, I found the industry that I love the most. An industry that intrigued me and kept me wanting more.
My future career path? I’m not a thousand percent sure yet. I want to try another internship in a completely different industry. I would like to explore. The best part about PR is that we have so many options so many different paths we can take. I didn’t learn what career path I want this summer, I learned that I have all the options in the world that I just found an amazing option for my exciting future.