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The Career Move

To change or not to change…? That is the question.
I’ve spent years working within a competitive environment, having to fight to remain noticed, training to maintain my skills to the highest level, compete for the best jobs and network like crazy. Sound familiar?
However, I’m not referring to a career in the world of events and exhibitions here… I spent 15 years as a professional performer in West End shows, globe-trotting in UK & international touring productions and sailing the high seas as the Dance Captain on Disney’s epic cruise liners.
Since transitioning my career into exhibition sales and sales training, I’ve found that it’s not too dissimilar to that of a ‘West End Wendy’ (the affectionate term used in showbiz for a thespian).
Every day since I started my career in the world of exhibitions, I find that skills I had once learnt on the stage are being transferred to the exhibition hall or training room; not only that, but they’re useful ones too…

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Having the confidence to socially interact well with many different types of people and cultures

  • To stand up and be able to engage with my audience in the training room
  • The ability to character-study clients and colleagues, adapting to suit their personalities in the same way an actress would adapt for a role; always a useful skill as a sales person.

The Personality Factor

So, using your personality is a big factor in sales right? So many people are nervous to allow their natural personality to shine through in conversations with clients and why is that? It could be compared to stage fright out there on the exhibition floor. It’s imperative to remember in all of this that clients still want to see and talk to the real you, not a caricature of one’s self! It’s about being able to adapt your personal approach to suit each client & get on their level, just as an actor really tries to identify with their audience

Teamwork Makes a Dream Work

If I stepped in to an audition room with Andrew Lloyd-Webber, he’d be looking for a piece of the real me, something where he can determine if I can actually deliver the role, but also if I’m going to work well with the rest of the cast – that’s the same as being part of a sales team, right?
With regards to teams, the most successful exhibitions I’ve trained on and rebooked at are those that have a strong, well connected sales team who work in harmony with each other, just like any chorus you see in a West End show; all perfectly in sync with each other, every one of them working hard to be the best at what they do, but at the same time connecting and showing a sense of teamwork; it’s not always every man for themselves! 

The Networking effect

Some might say that? there’s no other industry where networking is more important than in the acting world, right? Wrong! I’ve noticed it’s just as important in the exhibition industry; everyone knows everyone. To do a great job, you need to be talking about your exhibition everywhere, constantly promoting your product, staying with your finger on the pulse and making sure your competitor never has the edge. It’s exactly the same in the performing arts world. Having experienced this level of competitiveness in the performing industry, I see it as a good thing in my current job. I love the networking side too, it’s important to embrace it. 

Now, I could chat more about the similarities between a career in performing and exhibitions/events all day, there are so many, but the points above highlight the key interchangeable skills. Going back to my question at the beginning… to change or not to change? I would say that the answer is really neither. Although I’ve moved in to a different career, the similarities and the transferable skills are astounding! I discover every day how I can use the skills I trained for years learning and bring them to my work in sales, exhibitions and the training room. I feel lucky and grateful for the opportunities performing has given me, I look forward to discovering the ones ahead of me in this next episode of my working life!

Helen Harlow – Coaching Development Manager