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Trade Show Organizers Create More Value by Including Students in Programming

This is an image of students at the Chicago Auto Show 2024.

CHICAGO — As industries look for new ways to appeal to next-generation talent and workers, trade shows provide a unique opportunity to increase exposure to different career options early on by inviting students to attend shows.

Organizers have been seeing success with their student programs, from attendance to impact. Whether it’s a program that lasts the entirety of the show or a one-day event, bringing students of all ages to trade shows educates them about the industries and the vast career opportunities available.

For example, the Chicago Auto Show held its inaugural Career Day this year featuring a panel of experts in the field and a Career Fair with tables offered to exhibitors and other related industry representatives to meet with the attending students.

“There are so many careers available in the automotive industry, and we felt that the Chicago Auto Show is the perfect backdrop for an event like this. The response was overwhelming — we had 1,450 total participants in the program, exceeding our expectations for a first-year event,” said Jennifer Morand, President of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association and General Manager of the Chicago Auto Show.

Trade Show Executive talked in-depth with Desiree Hanson, Chief Commercial Officer | Energy, Gaming, Gift & Souvenir, Food & Beverage, Fashion, and Airport at Clarion Events North America, to find out how the Clarion team brings students to the show floor, and the impact those programs have made on the industries they serve.

Future Energy Leaders Program

Clarion Events’ DISTRIBUTECH International and POWERGEN International is focused on bringing the next generation of engineering professionals to the events to participate in industry sessions and courses, build their network and attend special events just for students. The Future Energy Leaders program allows students pursuing Engineering or Computer Science degrees to attend the event for no cost.

“From active customer conversations throughout the energy sector, one of the things we’ve been hearing is the need to cultivate talent and attract the new generation of engineers to the power energy industry. With a variety of offerings at the shows, it was important to us to develop a customized experience for welcoming students at our shows through specific introductory education, guided show floor tours and company introductions, and bringing them together for networking,” said Hanson.

DISTRUBTECH’s program has grown by 28% since its launch in 2023 and is bringing more than 140 students to the show this year. It has also grown from working with six universities in 2023 to 11 in 2024.

For 2024, the participating students can attend a reception party with complimentary F&B offerings and networking opportunities with job recruiters, an expo floor tour with time to meet one-on-one with exhibitors and an all-new job fair, giving students the chance to network for future internships, careers and mentorship opportunities.

This is a photo of students at the DISTRIBUTECH International trade show.
Photo Credit: DISTRIBUTECH International

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“The students’ satisfaction with the opportunity to be part of the show was one of the highest among our audience groups and we even heard from five students from University of San Francisco that received job placements directly from the show,” Hanson said. “Our goal is to stay in touch with these students over the years and develop alumni programs which will also insulate the future of our events. These students will always remember that DISTRIBUTECH International was the reason for their first career opportunity.”

Bringing students to the show also makes way for meaningful sponsorship opportunities.

“We’ve secured sponsors for the program as well, which is now one of our first sponsorship opportunities to sell out,” Hanson said. “Our premier Future Energy Leaders program sponsor was an immediate rebook based on how valuable they saw this program become and the engagement and interest from the students drove them to create continuing opportunities to connect with students throughout the year.”

Along with providing students with early career opportunities and exposure, programs like Future Energy Leaders help shape and empower the leaders of tomorrow in their respective industries.

“I think back to my start and being unsure of where my path would lead. If there were programs available through trade shows like this to open my eyes to endless possibilities, different industries, buyer to seller engagement and interaction, I feel it would have built a stronger foundation with clear visibility of where a potential path could go,” Hanson said. “Also, experiencing the dynamics with other students and having the opportunity to meet powerhouses from large reputable companies is something that can catapult a career path. Having the ability to build connections and relationships at an early stage in a face-to-face environment is a unique opportunity in today’s digitally driven world.”

Reach Desiree Hanson at; Jennifer Morand at

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