Should You Become a Certified Trade Show Marketer?

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If you’re a nurse or a teacher, you need official certification. If you’re a barista or a kickboxing instructor, you don’t. So what about marketing? It’s possible to become officially certified as a trade show marketer, but it’s not an easy process. Here’s our take.

What is a certified trade show marketer? 

The trade show marketer certification program (CTSM) is operated by Exhibitor Media Group, a trade organization that publishes Exhibitor magazine and runs ExhibitorLive, a trade show that’s all about trade shows. Earning the designation of certified trade show marketer means you’re an expert in trade show and event marketing, booth design and strategy. You must prove your expertise by passing a series of exams and submitting a portfolio of your work.

 How do you become a certified trade show marketer?

It’s not easy. First, you have to complete extensive training: 23 required sessions and 5 electives, totaling 42 hours of classroom time. The classes are about all different aspects of trade show marketing, such as measurement and analytics, marketing and sales, exhibits and events, and planning and execution. Experienced marketers may find some of the classes to be a little too basic, but if that’s the case, they have the option of substituting approved electives.

After taking all the classes, you have to take an on-site exam (and get at least 75 percent). Then, you must submit a portfolio of real-life projects you’ve created, showing your successes and what you’ve learned. You can’t rush through it: candidates typically need two to three years to receive their CTSM credentials.

So… is it worth it to become a certified trade show marketer?

We won’t lie: trade show marketer certification isn’t for everyone. The process is expensive (look for company reimbursement if possible), lengthy and challenging. “It’s a pretty small group of people that actually hold, or need to hold, this certification,” says Chase Howells, FrontLine Exhibits’ Senior Account Manager. They may be marketers at Fortune 500 companies, or at smaller firms that exhibit at 40 or 50 trade shows each year. Those dedicating the majority of their time and responsibility dealing with trade shows and events.

The real reward isn’t necessarily the CTSM title, but the content of the courses. “Even if you don’t do the whole thing in totality, there’s merit to a lot of their classes,” Chase says. “The one I’ll never forget, and the one I liked the most, was one on experiential marketing.” a course that detailed the strategy of appealing to all five of an attendees senses. Another benefit, he says, is learning how to track ROI for all your events. “If you can make that a habit,” he says, “imagine how much efficiency can be added to your campaign, and you’re adding a way to quantitatively measure and justify it.”