Mike Carter On New Role At Agenda & State Of Action Sports Trade Shows

Last week, Agenda announced that Electric Visual Co-founder and industry vet Mike Carter was joining the trade-show’s team to head up sales and marketing. We caught up with Carter as he was diving into the role to hear more about the position, his goals, and his take on the current state of the trade show landscape.

Mike Carter

How’d you connect with the The Agenda Show team and why did you feel it would be a good fit?

I’ve known Aaron [Levant] and the Agenda team for many years and always admired their vision. After numerous conversations, it became very apparent we shared a similar vision, and yet we recognized we were different enough for a truly complementary fit.

There have been a lot of exciting changes at Agenda recently including some big new partnerships. What are your top goals coming in as far as helping manage that change?

The ReedPOP group is an incredible partner. I met the entire team and they’re the perfect mix of long-term experience and a forward-looking point of view. Greg Topalian from ReedPOP is the man who created Comic Con in New York, so that tells you a lot about the mindset and the kind of reach they have. Reed is the world’s leading event organizer with over 460 events in 36 countries.

I plan to immerse myself in Reeds expertise to understand everything we have available to our clients and if anything differs from previous show options. My main goal is to help brands and buyers get the most out of their show experience. The Agenda team has already done a great job of re-inventing the show experience over the last 10 years to keep things fresh, but I have my own specific ideas and creativity I’m excited to add as well.

What are your thoughts on the current trade show landscape and schedule? There has been a lot of expansion lately.

There is no substitute for face-to-face communication and having the ability to interact with company decision makers, especially in a productive environment. A good trade show brings an industry together and allows a glimpse into what’s fresh and exciting from emerging to established brands. It’s a live performance of your brand message and a chance to showcase your “best in class” products.

The bottom line is if you provide the best service that helps your clients succeed, your business will always grow. I think it’s a matter of managing the balance between “Trade” and “Show” and not just “Show” for shows sake. In other words, managing the needs of the brand and the buyer correctly so that everyone can succeed. We all value our time, effort, and energy more than ever in today’s world.

How do you plan to help Agenda better meet the needs of industry retailers and brands and what’s your message to them about who Agenda is as a brand?

I’ll listen to them. It sounds simple, but listening is a skill that’s often not practiced. Personally, my philosophy is simply to create win-win scenarios for all involved. I want to hear from each brand and buyer about what’s working and what they would like to see improved. The show will always be evolving to suit our partners’ needs and with REEDS backing, Agenda will be more nimble to adapt. Agenda truly is a Brand—not just a show. It’s distinct from others because it provides a platform for the entire youth culture movement to come together under one roof. It’s a progressive convergence of surf, skate, street, snow, fashion, and art. You can’t find that energy at any other show. The brands that are the most successful are not one-dimensional. They find a way to reach multiple markets and the Agenda shows provide a platform for multi-market growth.

Here’s a look at this January’s Agenda NY:

What lessons will you bring from your brand experience to the table? 

I’m very fortunate to have been working in this industry for 25 years. When I was a kid working at Laguna Surf and Sport I can remember the rush when I would attend a show as a buyer, or just plain stoked grom.

After spending years building a brand and then working for a largely established brand, I feel I have a good understanding of what works and what doesn’t. I want to help brands bring that excitement to their show experience—to give the retailers and buyers that same thrill I felt as a kid.

What changes can we expect as far as Agenda’s messaging and marketing going into this summer’s shows?

The biggest change to come will be more category-specific marketing efforts to really focus investing dollars on each of Agenda’s show sections/categories. This is necessary as Agenda is now in so many markets. So in short, more marketing all around, with more focused efforts at the same time. Agenda is a forward thinking brand that moves in lockstep with the consumer of today. All of the messaging and marketing elements will reflect that.

What’s going to be the biggest learning curve for you as far as getting into the trade show world?

The transition to being both sales and marketing focused. The line between sales and marketing is more blurred than people think. If you’re good at marketing then inherently you see things through a sales point of view. Conversely the best sales people are the ones who have natural marketing tendencies. Marketing is much more subjective and sales has a clear bottom line.

I also might have to learn to use one of those tricked out walkie-talkies…HA!

Top four goals coming into this gig:

1) Do my best to create win-win partnerships for retailers and brands. Constantly strive to make these partnerships stronger and greater for the long term.

2) Bring back the “allure” of the shows and cultivate a canvas for brand creativity.

3) Focus on the international opportunities. Provide a gateway for our industry to focus more internationally as a unit.

4) Make sure each partner walks away accomplishing their goals; checking each box of success: Business growth, productive meetings, education opportunities, got inspired, and finally enjoyed the experience.

Closing thoughts?

See you July 10-11 in NYC and July 25-26th in LB.