To help remind his team of the high expectations he has for the planning and execution of the annual U.S. PGA Merchandise Show, Marc Simon draws a parallel between the show and professional golf’s four signature major events.
Just as the PGA calendar includes many tournaments, but only four that get the white-hot spotlight, Simon has endeavored to make his show, held each January in Orlando, into the flagship event in the flourishing world of golf-related merchandise.
From the marketing to the exhibits, lodging, food and exhibitor support, Simon is dedicated to making sure the show is “major” in every way.
“Everything is at a higher level,” he says. “How do we make sure that everything we do is at the highest caliber? We are aiming for amazing experiences, unparalleled education. When our customers leave, we want them to be wowed.”
Simon, who has worked with the PGA Show management team since 1998 in sales and account management, was named director of the event six years ago.
As a former college golfer, golf pro shop employee and college sports information director, the role strikes the optimal mix of his love for golf and the unique gifts required for successful event management.
People who run successful trade shows must be passionate about the industry they represent, adept at multitasking and calm under pressure, Simon says.
But he has found that the pre-eminent qualification he brings to the task is his ability to be a team player—to bring good people on board and trust them to adopt the show’s vision and carry out their role with excellence.
“First and foremost is having that strong team and trusting and empowering them to do their jobs,” he says. “You’ll never be able to take care of everything. You really need to be able to multitask and stay even-keeled under pressure. Your team will look to you, so you try to be as steady as you can, to keep cool and be a great listener.”
Simon’s strong belief that people are at the center of a great event affirms the intrinsic value of trade shows in this age of evermore sophisticated technology. Even if the digital age has made business more efficient, there is no substitute for a face-to-face experience, Simon says.
But every part of that experience can be optimized by the use of technology. The growth of the show’s mobile app, which is an example of the PGA show keeping pace with the times, allows visitors to navigate the show floor with efficiency.
Displays are more high-tech every year as new products emerge, and the 2019 show featured the inaugural Global Golf Innovation Competition, a “Shark Tank”-style event sponsored by HYPE Sports Innovation.
“There’s so much innovation in golf that the show floor almost naturally becomes a great place to showcase that technology,” Simon says. “We like to say we combine the best of face-to-face and digital.”
Simon and his staff took a week off after the January show, but after that break, they were energized to start planning for next year—identifying trends in the industry, applying customer feedback and devising new experiences to best serve the players on the business side of golf.
The PGA show has even expanded to include racquet sports like tennis, racquetball and pickleball since golf clubs often include those sports as well. Simon calls his show “the global gathering place of the golf industry,” and he is unflagging in his efforts to make sure the sport’s flagship event retains its commitment to excellence and growth.