Trade Show Executive
News, Views and Tools for Trade Show and Event Executives November 2011
CREATING “MARKETS OF NECESSITY”
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
CREATING “MARKETS OF NECESSITY”
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.
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
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
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
www.TradeShowExecutive.com | November 2011 49