A Conversation with Cheryl Clark, NASF Director of Events
The National Association for Surface Finishing’s Sur/Fin conference saw record crowds this past June, and much of the credit goes to the person the NASF has to put on the event, Cheryl Clark. This year, the event hosted 305 booths representing 210 companies, and 1,336 attendees, not including those exhibitors. We caught up with Clark as she was already gearing up for the 2019 show.
PF: With 2018 Sur/Fin completed, how much do you wind down before starting on 2019’s event?
CC: No winding down for me; I started planning for Sur/Fin 2019 almost immediately.
PF: What trend are you seeing in these industrial conferences?
CC: We are seeing more folks attending the conference sessions than ever before. I believe the reason we continue to draw more attendees is that we are always trying to identify topics that are relevant and present the most up-to-date information available. This year, more than ever before, we had new presenters from new companies.
PF: What’s the best piece of advice you have been given, either personally or professionally, and who gave it to you?
CC: For the most part, at the end of the day, people only want to be heard. My mentor always told me, if you listen to the problem and repeat it back to make sure you understand, that’s almost as good as solving the problem right away. There are very few problems that arise that cannot be solved on site. If there’s a problem, I tend to drop whatever I’m doing and resolve it. My mentor was the show manager for a 200,000+ trade show (which I eventually ran). She is an incredible woman, and I can never give her enough credit for teaching me everything I know.
PF: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
CC: My first real job was during college with the U.S. Agency for International Development at the State Department. Probably the biggest thing I learned is that I did not want to work for the federal government.
PF: If you had $100,000 to give to a charity, which one would it be?
CC: I would split it between St. Jude’s and the SPCA.
PF: What was your first car, and what is your dream car?
CC: My first was a brand-new Dodge Dart, but my dream car is a Jaguar.
PF: What leadership traits have helped you along the way?
CC: Listen to everyone around you before offering up any comments on any given subject; make sure you get the full story before trying to solve a problem.
PF: When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
CC: A writer.
PF: Night owl or early bird?
CC: Early bird.
PF: Favorite place you’ve ever lived?
CC: Where I am now, in southern Delaware, by the shore.
PF: What organization or company, aside from your own, do you most admire?
CC: Not one in particular but any that works with advocacy for the elderly.
PF: If you could trade jobs with anyone for a day, who would it be?
CC: An airline pilot.
PF: Where would we find you on a typical Saturday?
CC: On the beach.
PF: What’s the best way to keep a competitive edge?
CC: Make sure to treat every exhibitor as if they are the only one. Always treat them the same, regardless of the size booth they have.
PF: Personal heroes?
CC: Without a doubt, my parents.
PF: How do you motivate people?
CC: I never expect more from people than I expect from myself.
PF: How do you motivate yourself?
CC: I look at other trade shows’ websites and try to figure out how we can take our events to the next level.
PF: Three greatest passions?
CC: My family, dogs and Sur/Fin.
PF: Most unique office décor?
CC: At my prior association, my mentor and I decorated our offices in yellow sticky notes. We were always excited when we were able to tear one off and consider it done.
PF: Best business decision?
CC: Running Sur/Fin.
PF: Worst business decision?
CC: I’ve been lucky and don’t really have one.
PF: What is the biggest management myth?
CC: Perfection is the goal. I learned a number of years ago from a well-known association consultant that sometimes “good enough is good enough.” This was tough to get my head around, but the older I get, the more I realize how true it is.
PF: What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago?
CC: Pat yourself on the back a little more often, and that sometimes things are just not in your control.
PF: What word that best describes you?
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