Tarsus' Operations Manager Tricia Barglof Thinks Big

Tricia Barglof
When you talk to Tricia Barglof, CEM, U.S. operations manager at Tarsus, it’s hard to believe she grew up in Forman, North Dakota, a town of less than 600 people. “I wouldn’t change my upbringing for anything,” says Barglof. “But it was small.” That changed when Barglof moved an hour and a half away to attend North Dakota State University in Fargo. To help pay for college, she worked as a sales associate at Eddie Bauer and later became an assistant store manager after graduating.

An Eddie Bauer co-worker helped Barglof net a job interview with Tarsus Group, an international business-to-business media group known for its conferences, exhibitions, massive trade shows and publishing. Tarsus is the parent company of Connect.

Barglof’s job relocated her to Wisconsin, where she lives in Milwaukee and works in the western suburb of Brookfield. Thanks to her retail experience, Barglof was able to transition into the retail trade show industry. She now manages five to six trade shows per year, including the massive Offprice Show in Las Vegas Aug. 11-14 for apparel retail buyers and Labelexpo Americas, the largest event for the label and package printing industry in North and South America, Sept. 25-27 in Rosemont, Illinois.

Here’s Barglof’s advice on industry trends and managing massive trade shows—and how she got a spot on an upcoming episode of “Family Feud.”

What’s it like to be in Wisconsin instead of North Dakota?

The biggest difference is North Dakota is landlocked. It’s flat and full of farmland. To have Lake Michigan in your backyard is completely different.

What do you like about Milwaukee?

Summers here are second to none because there’s so much to do outside with festivals every week, including Summerfest, the largest musical festival in the world. If you like the outdoors, Milwaukee is a great city.

What are your go-to local restaurants?

I like Botanas for Mexican; Onesto for Italian; and Screaming Tuna for sushi.

What attracted you to event planning?

The opportunity to travel. Tarsus is an international company, and to be able to produce events all over the world was very intriguing to me. I never knew there was a career like this when I first got into event planning. It’s funny how a door can open when you build relationships with people and remain open to new opportunities.

What is it like to work for Tarsus?

It’s the best of both worlds. Tarsus is a global company with over 500 employees worldwide, but it’s a small office in Brookfield, Wisconsin. There are only 20 of us, so we can do team working and still have a corporate culture and the flexibility of working in a small office to produce events.

What are the keys to achieving your goals during events? 

Being proactive in the planning process and communication. 

Can you give some examples?

It’s about always looking ahead, trying to anticipate. Any time you open with a general session early in the morning, you should have a rehearsal the day before to work out any AV kinks and to make sure the machines are running correctly. It’s also important that the speaker feels comfortable with the stage set, and to make sure you have enough seating based on your registration.

What advice do you have for new event planners?

Do your research and become the industry expert. Know what other shows are doing and what is or isn’t working for them. Knowledge is king. Understanding your industry can help you make informed decisions. Network with your vendors because sometimes they will have great ideas to help you grow your show.

How do you keep up with attendees’ expectations each year?

That is probably one of the more challenging things to do. We work hard to build relationships with our attendees to understand how their businesses are growing and changing. We are constantly asking them what we can do to improve their experience. It seems as though people aren’t able to spend as much time at events as they used to, so we are always trying to improve how they can “shop” our shows and see everything. This year we’re taking the show online with our new website, offPrice365.com so buyers can source year-round instead of just during the show.

Who are your mentors and what is some of the most memorable advice you’ve received?

Two of my biggest mentors are who I report to: [Tarsus Director of Global Network Operations in London] Brian Howell and [Tarsus CEO] Steve Krogulski. They’ve both always said to talk to people. It’s amazing what kind of information you can gather or problem you can solve just by striking up a conversation with someone.

How have you implemented that advice?

If you see someone looking lost at your show, say, “You look like you’re lost.” Sometimes it turns out they are upset and don’t know where to go. Talking to them can help solve a problem before it explodes into something bigger. I also talk to people standing in line for coffee and ask, “How’s the show going for you?” to get off-the-cuff feedback.

What are some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced during a trade show and how did you overcome them?  

For our exhibitors, it’s their increasing costs to do business. We have to make sure a client still finds value in participating in our event and their investment in us is worth it. One way we try to solve this is by bundling things into the booth package—drayage, electrical, even hotel rooms. We find that offering an attractive package to an exhibitor leaves less room for additional expenses, and we can negotiate a better price on their behalf by combining all of the exhibitor purchasing power together.

What technology is important for planners right now and will be in 2019? 

Data collection and using it to help grow your show. There is so much information available to planners now, and it’s important to know how to use it to help make each attendee’s experience at your event unique and worth their investment of time and money.

What advice do you have for other businesses?

Surround yourself with a great team. You can’t do it all on your own and people have a lot of good ideas, so let them help you problem-solve and deliver a successful event. Plus, they can help you find your sense of humor when the going gets tough.

What’s something about you that a lot of people don’t know? 

My family—my younger sister and her husband, my older brother and his wife, and I—were selected to be on “Family Feud.” We had a running joke that we should be on the TV show and debated who would make the cut. My sister-in-law was a bit gung-ho and found out they were doing auditions St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Milwaukee. We auditioned playing a mini game against another family. The producers want to make sure everyone is energetic. We played another round, and after a few weeks we found out we made the cut. We will fly to L.A. to film it sometime this summer.