Home Is Where Alan Sims' Trade Show Heart Is

June 20, 2012

The Face2Face Series is sponsored by MarketArt.

Talk to most trade show managers and executives and you might notice a common theme: they seem to have no idea what they’d be doing if they weren’t working in the trade show industry.

The same rings true for 23-year industry veteran Alan Sims, who like many trade show lifers, began working in and around events right out of school, realized it was a good fit and never looked back.

“Relationships are important to me and face-to-face interaction is important, so (the industry) suits my skill set well,” Sims said.

He added, “As a career, I’m not sure there’s anything else I’d rather do, however, if income wasn’t important, maybe I’d train to be a chef. I love all types of cuisine, but if I had to narrow it down to one particular thing, it would probably be good ole’ southern barbeque.”

Sims said regardless of what he did, he would want to work in a face-to-face environment.

 I enjoy the day-to-day challenges (of my job), constantly evolving the business and working with our customers,” he added, “I still feel the excitement of the build-up to the event and then the onsite gratification of the finished product after months of effort.”

After stints in publishing, trade show marketing and running sales operations for a trade show management company, in 2003, Sims found himself returning to his home town of Tuscaloosa, Ala. and the company where he’d worked while still in school, Randall-Reilly Business Media, which had recruited him to manage its trade show division.

Nine years later, Sims sits at the helm of 26 events devoted to the trucking and construction industries, including The Great American Trucking Show, an expo behemoth held annually at the Dallas Convention Center.

For Sims, being a successful show manager in the face-to-face industry goes way beyond just selling booth space, attracting strong participation and making sure your exhibitors and attendees are happy for the few days – it’s all about growing and maintaining good customer relationships as well as believing in the industries you serve.

“I have customers and friendships that I’ve had for over two decades, which I greatly value,” Sims said.

He added, “I’m not a trucker, but I certainly have a great interest in and admiration for the industries and verticals we support and serve. I love the pride and passion they have and the same thing could be said for the construction industry. They’ve gotten in and stayed in the business because they love what they’re doing, love producing something and giving something back.”

And like most of his trade show brethren, Sims has been known to log in his fair share of frequent flier miles, traveling throughout North American more than125 days per year to oversee the trade shows in his charge, meet with customers or attend non-Randall events.

“A lot of friends that are not involved in our industry see (traveling for work) as all these great places you get to go to, but it’s never a vacation – it’s pretty hard work,” Sims said. “When I’m not traveling, I try to be home with my wife to enjoy dinner together.”

Although Sims said he has experienced varying degrees of challenges on and offsite as a show manager, most of his work concerns center around factors he can’t control.


“Every event manager has had things that have kept them up at night, but I’m really only concerned with the variables thatwe can’t influence, such as changes with venues, the economy, things we have no control over that makes us continually re-calibrate our business every day,” Sims said.

He added, “another thing that I find challenging is just the ever-increasing costs of producing an event and that we have to go through a re-invention process every year to make things work.”

Despite the fact that Sims appears to have plenty on his plate, he makes a point of spending as much quality time with his family as he can spare, especially with Sheri, his wife of 25 years. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to be surrounded by so many loved ones living in the region.

“Family is important to me,” Sims said. “Because I stay pretty busy and travel a lot, I like to spend as much time with them as I can when I have down time.”

He added, “I have a daughter who will soon be a senior at the University of Alabama, I have family throughout the southeast I stay very connected with and a number of family members right here in Tuscaloosa. My wife is from Hawaii, so our families cover a lot of territory, from the southeast to the South Pacific.”

But ask Sims what he’d like to be remembered for at the end of his career and his answer is thoughtful yet simple: do something positive and leave the industry a better place than when you found it.

“(I would like to be remembered for) helping the people I worked with and worked for and that I somehow made a difference and contribution to our industry,” Sims said. “That I was fair-handed and equitable with our customers and that they believed our efforts helped them meet their objectives.”

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