Meet the New Alliance Uniting Our Industry

Meet the New Alliance Uniting Our Industry

As the trade show industry begins to breathe life again, there’s a new place to turn for resources and support to get back in the groove again. In this rebroadcast of Virtual Lunch, Laura Palker tells us about the National Trade Show Alliance:

  • Why the NTSA was formed
  • Who the NTSA is for
  • What resources are available
  • How you can get involved

Here are links mentioned during the interview:

About Laura Palker

Laura Palker
Laura Palker

Laura is the Founder and CEO of Trade Show Solutions Center, a leading provider of exhibit planning, design, production, and marketing services. She’s a partner in both (an e-Commerce store designed to help impacted industries re-open with professional visual communications), and (a logistics, rental and storage company providing essential products and services to exhibitors and trade show partners). Laura has taken her vast wealth of knowledge and created companies to serve her clients and the trade show community.

She is the Co-Founder and President of the National Trade Show Alliance, a nonprofit organization formed to unite the many segments of the trade show industry. She’s the President of 100 Women Who Care About Long Island, which encourages women to make a meaningful economic difference for the region’s nonprofits.

Laura is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. In addition to completing her study in Polarity Therapy, she has completed her certification as a Virtual Events Professional. And, to help others achieve personal and professional goals, she just collaborated on her first book, How Do You Predict the Future? You Create It.


[00:00:00.570] - Marlys Arnold

You're listening to the Trade Show Insights podcast, Season 16, Episode nine. I'm your host, and exhibit marketing strategist, Marlys Arnold bringing you tools to improve your exhibit results on today's episode, brought to you by the Exhibit Marketers Cafe, we've got a rebroadcast of our virtual lunch, and you're going to learn all about the National Trade Show Alliance and how it's going to benefit our industry.

[00:01:02.190] - Marlys Arnold

Laura Palka is the founder and CEO of Trade Show Solutions Center, a leading provider of exhibit planning, design, production and marketing services. She's a partner in both, an e-commerce store designed to help impacted industries reopen with professional visual communications, and, a logistics, rental and storage company providing essential products and services to exhibitors and trade partners. She's the co-founder and president of the National Trade Show Alliance, which is what we're going to talk about today.

[00:01:39.030] - Marlys Arnold

It's a nonprofit organization formed to unite the many segments of the trade show industry. She also serves as president of One Hundred Women Who Care About Long Island, which encourages women to make meaningful economic difference for the region's nonprofits. And to help others achieve personal and professional goals, she just collaborated on her first book How do You Predict the Future? You Create It. I love that. Laura, welcome to Virtual Lunch.

[00:02:08.850] - Laura Palker

Marlys, thank you so much for having me. We have this is the first time that I am on this type of technology. So is everything coming clear? We're working OK technologically?

[00:02:22.800] - Marlys Arnold

Yeah you're loud and clear.

[00:02:25.230] - Laura Palker

Fantastic. So the the book endeavor was really something that was a labor of love. I have been very fortunate to be circled with with people in my center of influence who are brilliant. And many people who know me will often hear me speak about my husband, who is a former global chair of the Institute of Management Accountants.

[00:02:51.840] - Laura Palker

He's also a certified C.M.A certified management accountant and a certified strategic planner and a competitive and also in competitive analysis. Don't tell him I said so, but he is a bit brilliant. And so I talk to him and I said, you know, we we know turnaround management specialists. We know marketing specialists. We know public relations specialists and businesses that I've been speaking to have sort of become a little bit immobilized by this pandemic. And and it makes sense what you are talking about in terms of the not necessarily depressed, but but in this mental health situation of languishing.

[00:03:43.560] - Laura Palker

And I said we really just need to do something that will break through that space, that will allow people to make room to innovate. So that was really the purpose of the book. And we'll be holding a virtual conference in late September, early October, and more and more of the details to follow. And we will be utilizing the skills that I learned through the Virtual Event Institute. We became virtual certified virtual event professionals. We had selected several platforms.

[00:04:21.180] - Laura Palker

The the one that we liked the best was vFairs. And it was rated number one in some of the performing analysis. And we we produced the Society for Human Resource, Long Island Chapter Conference. And I will tell you, out of the three hundred and twenty five people that registered, we had one person who was ehh and the rest of them were raving reviews as far as the experience and the benefit that each of the sponsors and exhibitors had, but we really utilized our trade show experience to create that result.

[00:05:04.760] - Marlys Arnold

Well, and that's no event planner can hope for anything better than to only have one person is ehh.

[00:05:11.210] - Laura Palker

I know.

[00:05:12.800] - Marlys Arnold

It's a great testimonial. Well, let's talk about I know we want to focus today on the National Trade Show Alliance. So tell us a little bit about how did that come about? Well, I know you were an instigator in that, but how did that all you put it all together pretty quick, too, I think. So tell us what the history is.

[00:05:34.760] - Laura Palker

So I am an alumni of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small business program. And we were lobbying through the they are advocating excuse me, through the Ten Thousand Small Business Voices campaign that was created by Goldman Sachs and the alumni. And we had started last June and we were talking to all of our legislators and very much the same list that Chris has been working diligently on. And of course, you know, every time that I was meeting with with Schumer and Gillibrand office and Tom Schwass office, we were speaking with them and I was talking about trade shows and I was just not feeling that real connection.

[00:06:26.390] - Laura Palker

And so I followed up with the aides and I said, particularly with Connor from from Tom Schwass office and on Long Island. And I said. You know, Connor you really have to listen to me, you've got to understand who we are. And he says, well, you know, is it like the museums? I said, no. I said, have you been in the convention center? And he said, Well, I went to I went to a show and I said, Well, when you went to the show, what was that?

[00:06:57.050] - Laura Palker

Experience goes, oh, my goodness. He says the graphics and the displays and and everything that was there. He said I said, well, do you know how that happened? And he said, it doesn't does in the convention center do that? I said, no,

[00:07:11.270] - Marlys Arnold


[00:07:11.570] - Laura Palker

There are there are thousands of businesses. There are trades. There is the venue that all come together to make this happen in a period of two days. I said, you know, remember when we we turned the Javits Center into a hospital and and then President Trump said, oh, my goodness, they did this in two days.

[00:07:32.720] - Laura Palker

Have that get done? I said, we do this every single day of our lives. We set up cities in two or three days and we take them down in a day. And he goes, Oh, I never realized how that happened. And I began to share statistics with him and to be able to work and see. And then I saw Chris. So it's a little bit Chris's fault. The and I saw Marc zewski and these guys were out there barreling away every single day with the passion that our industry is known for and hitting the pavement and knocking on the doors and and repeating the story over and over and over again and reaching out to our industry associations and bringing together the collaboration.

[00:08:20.630] - Laura Palker

And I started looking and saying. OK, I was making the phone calls to all of the people that I have met over the last 30, 30 some years in this industry, and I was hearing them not knowing about the information. And I know social media doesn't deliver to everyone you're connected to. And I'm going to voice, the action. The work of our industry associations is not getting to the boots on the ground. It's not getting to the small businesses.

[00:08:56.360] - Laura Palker

We have no way to collaborate. We have no way to assemble. And then I was looking at our associations and I'm going we have associations for the show organizers. We have associations for the exhibit designers. We have associations. We have the trade for for the unions being able to work with our trades. I said, but there's a big gap here. There's a big gap here of people, gig gig economy workers, independent contractors, small businesses and small businesses.

[00:09:29.180] - Laura Palker

Not so small business. I mean, it is defined by the SBA as five hundred five hundred employees or less. And I'm going there's there's a disconnect. There's a gap. And I said we need to be able to help, number one, connect our people, bring our people back home, call up and say hello, how are you? Be aware, provides mental health solutions, provide job board solutions, be able to to enhance the Together Again expo so that we can we can get refreshed.

[00:10:05.540] - Laura Palker

I mean, I don't know about any of you, but I got into a truck a couple of months ago and I went, Whoa. Where am I going and how am I getting there? I can't drive this vehicle on the parkway, so we acclimating myself to what are the tools that are necessary to set up the job? How what's in the gang box? Where's my tape bucket? And what kind of tape are we going to need so that down to those real simple things we might imagine, we have been away for a year and a half.

[00:10:38.380] - Laura Palker

We might have had to divert our energies to a different skill set, you know, where where where are we today? And and getting that we that refresh that we need on on the show floor.

[00:10:52.130] - Marlys Arnold

Yeah. Well, and I know you're talking about just reacclimated yourself. I somebody one of my friends posted recently on social media, it's like he packed for his first trip at a year and a half. And he's like, I used to pack a suitcase all the time. Now I had to really think about it. I mean, it's like we're kind of taking for granted all those things that we're just like, you know, second nature. And we did them all the time.

[00:11:15.310] - Marlys Arnold

And now, like you said, it's almost like learning to ride a bicycle again.

[00:11:20.020] - Laura Palker

Absolutely. I flew to to Fort Lauderdale to to attend a two day workshop and flight fine, airport getting to the airport. Fine. I got into Fort Lauderdale at eleven thirty at night. I had a car reserved, but I, I observed that there were only two car rentals open Avis and budget. And as I approached there were over one hundred people on the line and there were four people working at the desk. I did not get my car until two thirty in the morning.

[00:11:55.450] - Laura Palker

I got to my hotel at three o'clock and I had to be back up at six to get ready to go to the workshop that started at seven. I said, whoa, with this kind of planning, we're going to end up missing the show.

[00:12:07.090] - Marlys Arnold

Wow. Wow. Yeah, I guess that's another thing we need to be prepared for is long lines everywhere and allowing a lot more time cushions for for everything that we do. So we'll talk a little bit about the membership of because I know that this is designed to be a very broad alliance that covers our whole industry. So how does membership work and and how do people we've got a link here we'll put up, but how does membership work and who who should be interested?

[00:12:38.350] - Laura Palker

So first and foremost, I want to thank the people that I reached out to that are on this board of directors. And you can go to the website and and first take a look at the at the powerhouse of people that's represented on this board who are selflessly working every single week since January to set up a system and a structure of what we can use to connect our people. And when we connect, say, connect our people, we're talking about anyone who's a livelihood.

[00:13:16.010] - Laura Palker

Is has been is been, is or or is going to be in the trade show industry, so it could be somebody from the union, somebody from the the docks, somebody from the general contractor, somebody from a subcontractor, someone from from a design house, an exhibit house. Any individual that has touched this industry can go to the website, the NationalTradeShowAlliance.Org, and they can click on join us and they can become a member, absolutely free.

[00:13:59.960] - Laura Palker

We do have we do have different forms of membership. Affiliate members are those that are businesses, exhibit houses, rental companies. And then we do have supporters. And those are there are membership fees associated with that. Our goal is to we are working with Exhibit City News and plugging in the job board so that we can give our members access to the job port if there's a contact us page if you're looking for a job in a particular area. Send an email to us and we will we get we get job openings from various different publications that we can send to and work with you and connect with you.

[00:14:49.490] - Laura Palker

If you used to work with for instance, I was in Philadelphia. Arbie from the eastern states, eastern Atlantic states, a brotherhood of carpenters invited me down to a customer service training that they had for their carpenters. It was world class. It was absolutely world class. It it was talking about customer service and who's the customer. It's not just the general contractor. It's the exhibit houses. It's the exhibitors, it's the attendees. And what's the impact if we if we don't do a good job when we go in to work and do a show, we're impacting the dishwasher at the restaurant because what we do gives him a job and the waiter and the lift driver and the uber driver and the list goes on and on and on about opening our industry up and the impact that we make.

[00:15:46.980] - Laura Palker

So the job board, the skills refresh will happen the soonest at the at the Together Again Job Fair and Expo, which will be August 5th at Atlantic City Convention Center. And they are hosting us and we are so excited to be working with them. Tabi is working on the team, Ammann McFarlane, who is the NCAA champion and owns Twenty First Century Org. She's in on the board. Jacqueline Biblio, who is formerly with the Health Care Exhibiter Association.

[00:16:22.340] - Laura Palker

I started in the industry and watched her like a hawk. She is a role model for me. And we have Nicole Klein, who is working on the committee. She's our communications chair

[00:16:35.100] - Marlys Arnold

Who's here with us today.

[00:16:36.620] - Laura Palker

Nicole, hey, how are you? She's amazing. She's an extremely talented writer and has been working with us to focus on our mission and to stay targeted to our workers. And last but not least, just building our community, we have to build evidence of our community. You know, our numbers say two point two million people. We need to build that evidence. We need to connect our people. We need to be able to work together because no one person, no one company is going to be able to help us in our recovery.

[00:17:10.520] - Laura Palker

We need to get to know each other. We need to connect with each other. We need to Marlys, as you said, watch each other. You know, if you see someone who's a little off or you see some is not got a smile on their face, we need to be able to reach out and put a hand on the shoulder and say, hey, you OK? Is there anything I can do for you?

[00:17:30.970] - Marlys Arnold

Yeah, yeah, and I think, you know, I think there's been a lot of that over the past year, probably more in our industry than there has been in the past. I think we've we tended to come together and support each other just because it's like I was talking with somebody this week that said, you know, we all knew what we were going through, whereas our friends and neighbors and people that weren't affected outside the industry didn't really understand.

[00:17:55.700] - Marlys Arnold

So we were able to support each other a lot more. But I think that, as you said, as we start to reopen, there's still going to be issues. There's still going to be people. You know, we've had a lot of people that that have either had to change jobs or transition or or have left the industry or whatever. And then you're going to be and I know you and I, when we had our discussion the other day, there's a lot of new people that are going to have to come into this industry because we have lost so many.

[00:18:24.160] - Marlys Arnold

And so it's going to be a matter of training new people and getting them up to speed. So there's going to be a lot you know, it's it's going to be a great wild ride, but it's also going to be a bumpy ride getting started.

[00:18:36.760] - Laura Palker

We're going to be calling all of those people that may have retired and asking them to come back and work in mentorship programs to help people who want to be involved in this industry to get gain the knowledge. We're going to be setting up programs for the junior and senior level at the high schools and the trade shows to talk to them. What a phenomenal industry this is. You know what we play hard and we work hard. And it is it is an industry that is never boring, that is always challenging.

[00:19:13.330] - Laura Palker

That is like if if you like to work on puzzles, if you like, if you like the excitement of of the treasure hunt, you know, you're in this is a great industry for you. And so it's going to be exciting to to develop and see our industry grow and and reinvent and reignite. And because that's just who we are.

[00:19:46.750] - Marlys Arnold

So we are a partying crowd. Yeah. So it's it's definitely going to be a great way to for everybody to come together. So again, go to, I'm going to put up the link one more time., check it out if you haven't already. And you also are doing you're doing some weekly online gatherings, right.

[00:20:14.350] - Laura Palker

Yes. So we have TuneUp Tuesdays for anybody who wants to join in by Zoom. And then we have What's Up Wednesdays. So just a matter of connecting, looking at what what you've been doing during the pandemic, what your plans are also. And then Marco, there you go. The I've been in Milan and that was really a great place. But they you know. The one thing that's so important is that we need also people who are interested in being involved in our steering committees, we broke down the United States into five regions.

[00:20:58.200] - Laura Palker

So we'll be looking to to have people that help us understand what our people in the industry need. What's important, we'll look to provide some some options for health care with the advent of Teladoc services. There's opportunities for us to do that. And tell us what you need. If you're interested in being involved in a steering committee, write it in the note, notations when you click on Join US, it's really simple and then be a part of us.

[00:21:33.690] - Laura Palker

Be a part of of getting involved. We can get those that just want to be available for special projects and for those that want to get involved with a little bit more meat on the bones. You let us know. And we've got a spot for you as well.

[00:21:48.180] - Marlys Arnold

And I love that you're going to be very attuned to the members and what the members need, because I think that's been a problem and a lot of associations is that they've lost touch with their members. So I think this is great that it's going to be more of a grassroots effort and the and the members are going to be basically defining what the alliance even is.

[00:22:06.000] - Laura Palker

So that's why we named it the National Trade Show Alliance, because this is an alliance of all of us standing shoulder to shoulder, all of us supporting each other. And the people side of our industry is our focus.

[00:22:19.600] - Marlys Arnold

Yeah, I love that. Laura, thank you so much for being our guest today on virtual lunch and introducing us to this brand new industry alliance that's coming together and and letting us know how we can all be a part of it.

[00:22:38.530] - Marlys Arnold

You can find all the links mentioned during our interview in this episode, show notes at And if you'd like to join us for an upcoming virtual lunch, you'll find info on that at If you enjoyed today's episode and would like more, you can subscribe to the podcast and automatically receive future episodes on your chosen device, simply search for Trade Show Insights in Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or virtually anywhere else that podcasts are found.

[00:23:21.950] - Marlys Arnold

Then click the subscribe button. Trade Show Insights is protected by the Creative Commons copyright license, you may feel free to share this recording with colleagues or embed it on your own blog as long as it's shared in its entirety and is not used for commercial purposes. To learn more, please see the link in the sidebar, the show notes at Well, that's it for this episode of Trade Show Insights. Be sure to check out our show Notes and Archives at

[00:23:54.870] - Marlys Arnold

You can also connect with me using the social media links or the contact page on the site. I'm Marlys Arnold. Thanks for listening and be sure to join us next time for more tools to improve your exhibit results.


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