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Industry Experts
5 Min Read

Meet Rick L. Dobson, Jr., CEM, Exhibition Industry Expert

How long have you worked in the industry? 41 years

What are you most excited or passionate about? What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your work?

I’m an educator by degree, so drawing upon my experience to help others has been part of everything I do, and that applies to my work at Ungerboeck, too. I use it to help prospective clients fully appreciate why Ungerboeck software is superior to all others. With my clients, I draw on my experience to help them identify best practices. And, finally, I can serve as an internal resource to both the Product team and to Marketing by being able to offer a show organizer’s perspective. As far as my goals are concerned, I’d say they are nothing short of wanting to make Ungerboeck the dominant brand in the exhibitions space.

Is there a specific project you’ve worked on in your career that you’re most proud of?

There are many, but the one that stands out most is the student internship program I started at NAB. The NAB Show is permanently held in Las Vegas, and UNLV has a very good undergrad Hospitality program which also includes coursework on convention and exhibition management. The chair of the Hospitality program at the time, Patty Shock, was a friend of mine. Knowing how little hands-on experience is available to students – and how hands-on is really the only way to determine if this is the right business for them – I reached out to Patty to see if she had students who would be interested in spending a week onsite at the NAB Show learning the business from the inside. Patty jumped at the idea and the first year we had seven UNLV students participate. I did this for three years before offering it to IAEE to develop into a formal program, the Backstage Program, that could offer similar internships at shows across the country.

What have been the lessons you’ve learned in the events industry?

That to be a great show organizer requires an open mind and a willingness to reach out to one’s more experienced peers for ideas and suggestions. There’s a big difference between doing one thing a dozen times and doing a dozen different things. Because there are so few degree programs in our industry, most people fell into their positions and learned on-the-job. Most simply continued the way things had always been done, knowing nothing different. As a result, bad habits and processes become ingrained. It is only through exposure to others that one begins to realize that there are many ways to do things – and many of them are clearly better. I built my consulting career on guiding association show staff to see all the possibilities open to them and to help them understand the pros and cons of each option, as well as the potential unintended consequences that may exist. By helping them arrive at the correct choices on their own, while keeping them from making any fatal mistakes, they developed the habits that resulted in much greater successes.

What are 3 words to describe Ungerboeck?

Just one: Special.

When you think of the future of the events industry, what do you think will be the “next thing” we are all talking about?

Every year there are dire predictions that conventions and trade shows will see participation (and revenues) decline as online options proliferate, and yet those predictions have never materialized – at least not yet. Reality is that there is something about live, face-to-face events that technology is unable to replicate. And while it’s true that time is at a premium for most everyone these days, and we are all more selective about what events we do participate in, the industry actually continues to grow. But with competition also growing each year, show organizers cannot afford to coast – events that fail to remain relevant and compelling year after year will likely die and/or be replaced by new events that better serve those audiences/markets. I do believe that technology will continue to be a major factor in show organizers’ ability to achieve greater efficiencies in their operations. By maximizing the amount of work that can be automated, more time is made available to higher-level tasks.

What advice would you have for someone going into the events industry?

Invest the time needed to ensure that a career in the events industry is right for you. With the limited number of university level courses available (and even fewer degree programs), educating oneself about the industry requires effort. I advise people who are interested in exploring careers in the events industry to identify producers of events in their local market and to reach out to them. Most show organizers would be delighted to share their knowledge and insights with anyone who shows a real interest in their industry since there is a constant need to attract new, young talent. Once these relationships have been made, ask if they would consider taking you on as an intern. Do all these things and it is almost certain that you will know for sure if this is (or isn’t) the career path for you.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

I ran my first half-marathon at age 60.

If your life had a theme song, what would it be?

Good Morning: https://go.ungerboeck.com/RicksSong

Frost, Max (2018). Good Morning. On Gold Rush [Digital Download, CD]. Atlantic Records