Trade Show Leader: mdg’s Vinnie Polito
Vinnie Polito has spent more than 25 years in senior leadership positions in the trade show industry, including nine with Reed Exhibitions.
During his career, he’s had two international postings, launched events on five continents and developed highly specialized conferences in technology, life sciences and healthcare. Polito also is the past chairman of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events and a recipient of the organization’s highest honor, the Pinnacle Award, in 2014.
He currently co-Owns mdg with Kimberly Hardcastle. mdg is the tradeshow industry’s largest independent full service marketing and consulting agency where Polito serves as principal and live event strategist.
TSNN: How did you get started in the industry?
Polito: I was working for the publisher of TeenAge Magazine and we also produced a newsletter for Apple designed to keep the Apple II first in the minds of educators. From there we developed a tradeshow with Apple called Applefest and we were off to the races. Some of the items in the Apple Classroom of Tomorrow closely resemble items you can buy today. Now in the technology show space I got connected to the Interface Group and Sheldon Adelson and COMDEX and then it all got really exciting.
TSNN: How different was the industry when you started, compared with today?
Polito: While many of the fundamentals remain the same, the challenges for the marketing dollar have increased in size and scope and the speed with which things develop has increased dramatically. The industry has withstood many challenges and will continue to do so—there really is no substitute for the face-to-face interaction and experience. That’s never more true than today.
TSNN: What are some of the lessons you have learned being a part of this industry?
A few that come immediately to mind—
A—It used to be that trade shows only reflected the industries they served—now I truly believe trade shows have an impact and aren’t mere reflections.
B—The world really is getting ‘smaller’ every day and trade shows play a significant part.
C—This is an old standby—but passionate people are more successful than brainiacs—and if you can combine the two ….
TSNN: What is your favorite part of being in the industry?
Polito: If you are fortunate enough to work on multiple shows, I really enjoy that on any given today, I can be involved in shows at several different points of development. I also believe that this allows me an advantage of being out in front on best and next practices. I also had the ability to work essentially all over the world thanks to my time with the Interface Group, Ziff Davis and Reed—and as a partner at mdg.
I can share these learnings across our client base.
TSNN: Anything you miss that you wish was still around?
Polito: Back in the day as they say—there were several iconic, larger than life characters. Sheldon Adelson of course is at the top of my list, but Bob Krakoff and Pat McGovern were two others that had an impact on my learning. There are of course still characters today, but in my early years, it seemed like access to those kind of folks was a bit easier to come by.
TSNN: Anything you are thrilled went away?
Polito: Being a tad careful here—there was a time that I felt like the industry encouraged excesses of all types. I don’t believe that’s the case any longer, or maybe I’ve just matured a little. Ha ha.
TSNN: What do you hope your personal impact on the industry is?
Polito: People talk about a coaching tree—and in my case, I know many people I’ve worked with that have gone on to make a difference in our industry every day. I hope I am able to inspire people to find careers in our industry that are rewarding by every measure.
It is possible to be successful ,yet remain caring and compassionate.
TSNN: Any wise words about what this industry means to you overall?
Polito: I once had a president that was shocked by the way this industry comes together to help one another, but the willingness to help is very true. I’ve had the opportunity to experience this both personally and professionally, and I’d make the same career choice again.