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Trade Show Executive Jeff Portman - Lightfair International

Trade Show Executive

News, Views and Tools for Trade Show and Event Executives November 2011





>>September Slowdown

Impacts Attendance and

Net SF; Is That an Anomaly?

>>What's Hot in Registration

and How Much Will it Cost?

>>How Big is Small? Half the

Convention Centers Offer Less

Than 100,000 sf of Exhibit Space



Photo by Ashley Hope, AWH Photo

44 November 2011 | Trade Show Executive



DALLMEYER, TSE columnist


Jeff Portman is president and chief operating officer of AMC, Inc., the world’s

largest trade mart/trade show organization and the parent company of AmericasMart

Atlanta, the nation’s largest wholesale home/gift/apparel marketplace.

The landmark AmericasMart was designed and built by Jeff’s father,

the esteemed architect John C. Portman Jr.

Jeff manages AMC’s operations which bring tens of thousands of visitors

annually to the city, generating more than $478 million in direct economic impact.

He is one of those rare individuals who grew up in the trade show industry.

He began his career in commercial real estate development and management

as general manager of the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC) from

1986 through July 1994. He was then appointed executive vice president of

AMC, Inc. and became president and chief operating officer in 2001.

Jeff subsequently led AMC and AmericasMart Atlanta through a period of

growth unprecedented in the companys’ 53-year history, commencing with

the rebranding of the former Atlanta Market Center as AmericasMart Atlanta

in 1996, and continuing with expansion of its global business base, most

recently with the opening of the Building Two West Wing in January 2009.

Jeff is a native Atlantan and lives there with his wife and children. He is

consistently ranked among the Top 100 Most Influential People in the U.S.

home furnishings industry. He recently received the Atlanta Citizen of the

Year award and serves on the Executive Committee of the Atlanta Convention

and Visitors Bureau. He is also on the Board of The Lovett School, his alma

mater. He did undergraduate work at Mercer University and Georgia State

University and post-graduate study at Harvard in Cambridge.

www.TradeShowExecutive.com | November 2011 45


>> BOB: In your experience over

the last five years, are corporations

valuing and using conventions and

trade shows differently?

JEFF: For the last several years, we’ve used

third party research to learn about our

relationships within the trade show industry.

The results attest that we are positively

bucking the trends in every measurable

category. For example, what we’re seeing

at LightFair International, is that it is not

just about showing product, but imparting

value and enhancing our participant’s

business in every conceivable way.

>> BOB: What percent of your

audience is international?

JEFF: It’s 9%, and based on our research,

we are expecting additional growth from

around the world.

Family crossroads. Jeff Portman and his parents watch proudly as a street in Atlanta is named John

Portman Blvd. in honor of his dad. John Portman is the founder and chairman of AMC.

>> BOB: You have one of the truly unique

positions in our industry: you manage

a four-building campus in the heart of

Atlanta with permanent showrooms and

you produce several in-house mega

events and a stand-alone event off

premise. What is your management

strategy to accomplish all this?

JEFF: It’s a simple strategy, but not an easy

one: at AMC, our mission is to create the

world’s “markets of necessity” by providing

superior service, innovation and

high value to everyone touched by our

business. We focus on finding ways to do

things differently and better.

>> BOB: Is participation in your

permanent showrooms growing?

JEFF: Yes it is. Despite some occupancy

reductions in 2009 resulting from the

global business slowdown, by late 2010,

our growth resumed and now continues

with more than 1,500 permanent

showrooms occupied and more than

8,800 exhibit booths housed annually.

>> BOB: What special strategies do you

use to keep the showrooms filled?

JEFF: We work really hard to bring the

right kind of buyers and designers to

AmericasMart, with a concentration on

building a national and international

attendee base. We also work with our

permanent exhibitors on co-branding

and co-promotional campaigns which

contribute to their success.

>> BOB: We often talk about hybrid

events, but you have hybrid exhibits.

Please explain.?

JEFF: Our strategic integration of

permanent showrooms and trade show

exhibits creates, by design, a multidimensional

business model. Many

emerging companies participate initially

in our trade shows and then ultimately

establish a year-round presence on our

campus. While “hybrid” is not routinely

used in our branding language, to a

certain extent, the term could apply. At

the end of the day, we are a trade show

and marketing company bringing buyers

and sellers together in pursuit of strategic

advantages and growth.

>> BOB: Have you been successful

in attracting international exhibitors

and attendees?

JEFF: In 2008, we began a program to attract

a larger global audience. In the three

ensuing years, international attendance

grew 9%. In testimony to our initiative,

the Canton Fair management last year

described their operation by stating:

“It’s the AmericasMart of China.”

>> BOB: How are you

currently using social media?

JEFF: While the ultimate role of social

media continues to unfold, it certainly

has a place in our marketing arsenal.

More importantly, we have just

introduced our new global website,

which will enhance our ability to drive

attendance and create match-making


>> BOB: What about mobile apps?

JEFF: We introduced an app at LightFair

International two years ago and it received

rave reviews. Our new website will

ultimately offer apps, particularly to

help visitors navigate, communicate and

connect effectively at all of our shows.

>> BOB: Do you offer Wi-Fi

throughout your campus?

JEFF: As of this January, we will have Wi-Fi

throughout our temporary exhibit space,

which is the lower seven floors of each

building on our campus. We have a phasedin

approach to cover our entire 7.2 million

square feet. We are looking at a show rate of

less than $25 per event. And one year from

now, we will also have smart phone access

throughout our entire campus.

46 November 2011 | Trade Show Executive


On stage. Portman has been a highly visible

leader for AMC. He took part in the opening of the

Safavieh showroom (top) and presided over the

ICON HONORS, AmericasMart’s annual salute to

standouts in the home and gift industry.

>> BOB: How green are your events

and facility? And is this a priority?

JEFF: For more than a decade, we have

been committed to implementing “green

initiatives.” In 2009, AmericasMart was

admitted to the United States Green

Building Council (USGBC). We’re also

exploring becoming LEED-certified in

the future. Our facility is 7.2 million

square feet, so programs that improve our

operating efficiency — such as energy and

water conservation, indoor air quality,

recycling and waste management – are

a continuing focus.

>> BOB: What have you achieved?

JEFF: According to our most recent

analysis, which looked at our energy

conservation performance over a tenyear

period, we reduced electrical

consumption across the entire campus

by 18%, with some facilities posting as

much as a 34% reduction. That’s an

aggregate reduction of 13.7 million KW

or $1.4 million in avoided costs over

the ten years. These efforts also yielded

9,826 tons of CO2 emissions avoided by

Georgia Power – that’s the equivalent of

taking 1,879 cars off the road for a year.

We achieved all of this despite the cost of

power increasing 72% during the tenyear

time frame. Our recycling and waste

management programs have also proven

to be successful. As you can imagine, our

facility generates a lot of cardboard, 215

tons of it annually, which is baled on-site

and recycled. Our waste management

program is also set up to maximize

our ability to separate wet trash from

recyclable items such as plastic, glass,

aluminum and paper and 30 tons of

it is recycled annually.

>> BOB: What are you most

excited about this year?

JEFF: I take immense pride in how our

team has successfully addressed the

challenges of doing business within the

prevailing business climate. During this

time, we have enhanced and introduced

new product categories and new services:

an off-site warehouse providing our

customers with storage, freight forwarding

and logistical services and the Atlanta

Convention Center at AmericasMart. This

convention center is located within the

AmericasMart campus and is operated as

a self-contained, fully integrated convention

and conference venue. It has already

hosted numerous nationally prominent

events, including the auditions for

American Idol and America’s Got Talent, and

the Georgia Meeting Professionals International

Annual Meeting and Expo.

>> BOB: Tell me about your staff.?

JEFF: We employ more than 210

associates, 70% of whom are women.

The majority reside in the greater Atlanta

area. In 2001, the company adopted

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality

Award framework. Since that time, the

staff of AMC has been using the Baldrige

Award performance excellence criteria.

We believe this has helped to help keep

AmericasMart Atlanta the strongest,

most competitive, and most successful

business in our industry.

>> BOB: What are your guiding principles

that you communicate to your staff?

JEFF: Let me begin with one absolute:

our employees are the ones who will

ultimately help define our organizational

48 November 2011 | Trade Show Executive

excellence. Our core principles, which

shape our culture, our corporate

creed and our interaction across the

organization, are grounded in integrity,

mutual respect and innovation.

In addition, we uphold:

n The courage of our convictions:

An unbridled confidence to challenge,

innovate, and be first whenever we can,

and if we are second, it is by design.

n A healthy discontent: Enjoy the

accomplishment, then raise the bar.

n Passionate innovation and

continuous improvement.

>> BOB: Your father, John Portman Jr.,

is an industry pioneer. He is noted for

his innovative atrium projects for hotels

and office spaces, plus he’s a leader in

mart construction. How did he inspire

you as a child?

JEFF: At 86, my father is full of energy,

and on most days, could probably out

hustle any man regardless of age. Still

working six days a week, I often tell him

at this rate, he and the company may

have to pay for my retirement party!

He is a sharp, quick-witted man whose

deep conviction to honesty and integrity

have shaped his life and set a wonderful

example for all of us who work with and

around him. He is a dreamer, a doer,

and more importantly, a visionary. As

a child, I was not aware of my father's

many talents. I just thought of him as my

dad, the architect, and a good one too.

After working with him for much of my

business life, I can tell you he is a man of

more talents than I can possibly name. He

has been a great example to me in more

ways than I can count. In the midst of his

incredible accomplishments, the one I

have benefited the most from has been his

willingness to be my mentor, my coach,

and most of all, an incredible father.

>> BOB: Tell me about your award

as the Atlanta Citizen of the Year.?

JEFF: Atlanta is a city of givers and doers.

That is our heritage. It extends from the

earliest leadership and captures the spirit

of civic pride and advancement. My call

to leadership in the city has drawn me

into a variety of opportunities, dating

back to the 1996 Olympics and continuing

today across several downtown initiatives

including the Atlanta Convention

and Visitors Bureau (ACVB) and Central

Atlanta Progress. I was honored to receive

the award for creative and transformative

change in the infrastructure of the central

business district.

>> BOB: How did you

get into this business?

JEFF: At the age of 10, I was offered the

opportunity to come work on the loading

dock for four weeks prior to the July

show here at AmericasMart. My exposure

to the business at that time, and the

obvious enjoyment I received from it, led

my father to encourage my continued

work at every available opportunity

going forward. As a result, I worked

every summer in different parts of the

organization until I went off to college.

During my first couple of summers of

college, I was offered the opportunity to

work in the model shop at John Portman

& Associates, which I found exciting and

fulfilling as well, but it wasn't as exciting

as the trade show business. Needless to

say, I found my way back to the trade

show business after college and was

exposed to not only the operational side

of the business but the exhibitor side

as well, selling their products during

the shows. These collective experiences

made a tremendous impact on me, and

quite frankly, helped me come to the

conclusion that the trade show business

was a career opportunity that I felt

compelled to pursue.

>> BOB: Who are your mentors?

JEFF: My father, John C. Portman Jr., for

his leadership, wisdom and support each

and every day. Our board member and

trusted advisor, Mickey Steinberg — for

his perspective and passionate pursuit

of excellence. My previous boss, Jack

Ryan, for his support of my career and

his willingness to share his tremendous

knowledge of finance with me.

>> BOB: What do you better

than your competition?

JEFF: From the inception of this company,

we have concentrated the greater part of

our energies, intelligence and hard work

inwardly, to perfect the essentials of our

business and our brand. It’s very much

of an analytical creative design approach

to the business — to drill down to the

essentials and to build on those defining

characteristics and components.

>> BOB: What is your vision for

AmericasMart in five years?

JEFF: To continue to enhance our international

brand and reach. To stay true to

our roots of innovation, imagination and

education. To continue to position our

business for the benefit of our exhibitor

customers and buyer customers.

>> BOB: What keeps you awake at night?

JEFF: All ideas swirling through my mind.

>> BOB: What helps you sleep?

JEFF: The satisfaction that comes

from the realization of a personal or

professional goal.

>> BOB: What three

adjectives describe you?

JEFF: Competitive. Creative.


Contact Jeff Portman at (404) 220-2109 or


Columnist BOB DALLMEYER, CEM, has been chairman

of both the International Association of Exhibitions and

Events (IAEE) and the Trade Show Exhibitors Association

(TSEA), as well as a former director of the Center for Exhibition

Industry Research (CEIR). In 2006, he was inducted

into the Convention Industry Council’s Hall of Leaders and

received IAEE’s Pinnacle Award in 2008. Contact Bob at

(323) 934-8300 or bdallmeyer@tradeshowexecutive.com

www.TradeShowExecutive.com | November 2011 49

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