I have spent the past five months working as a Project Coordinator at Wulff Entre. Before I started this job, I was often asked what a project coordinator actually does. My answer was based on what I had read on the company website and blog, and it was something like this: “I help companies with all preparations for their trade fair participation”.
Quite an accurate answer, for that is indeed what my job is. Although, “all preparations” turned out to be a much broader and more complex thing than I had imagined.
My own baptism of fire came after a couple of months’ work, when I jumped into the project team working on OTC 2015, a trade fair that took place in Texas in May. As everyone who has been reading our blog knows, this year was the first time we had the honor to organize the Norwegian Pavilion, which included approximately 65 Norwegian companies. I was responsible for around 40 of these. Fortunately, this newbie was not alone but was supported by our top-class project team. But I can tell you, after this experience the word “hurry” got a whole new meaning, and I will certainly never need to be reminded of the importance of consistent and coordinated communication.
Now that this first project is over, if I was asked again what a project coordinator does, I would take a bit longer to think and finally reply, “ask rather if there’s anything we don’t do!”
Our work includes lots of tasks that are all but invisible to the client. To start with, communication takes a major portion of the time spent on any project. The people we communicate with most are constructors, customers, our own sales and design teams, and fair organizers – and let’s not forget that the organizers often have several different contact persons, each with their own areas of responsibility. Depending on the project, time zone differences might pose an additional challenges for communication. So in practice, one of the most essential things in a Project Coordinator’s job is to keep on top of everything and make sure each stakeholder knows what’s happening and at what schedule.
Apart from this, our job includes such things as mapping the customer’s expectations and objectives for the exhibition; designing the stand; ensuring both client’s and organizer’s approval for the stand design and making all necessary changes; choosing the best constructor; communicating with the organizer; requesting the logins to the online exhibitor portal; making sure we have the up-to-date hall plan; finding all relevant information from the organizer’s exhibitor manual; noting the organizer’s deadlines and drawing up the project timetable; checking all possible restrictions and instructions concerning stand constructions and set-up; checking client’s graphic materials and forwarding them for production; ordering electricity, water connections, rigging, cleaning, internet, AV equipment and catering; helping clients fill in their catalogue information and order their exhibitor badges…and so on.
Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to know that the colour temperature of a fluorescent tube is 3000-4000 Kelvin and its colour rendering index varies between 80 and 90 percent, or that a three-phase electric power can handle five coffee makers per each phase.
As I was contemplating the various tasks involved in any project and counting the number of work hours spent on just this one project, I couldn’t help but think of what it would mean if a company did all this work by themselves. Which employee could spare the time to take care of all the above-mentioned things? And what would be the real cost for the company of the resources tied to this?
In short, it is not only a concrete stand that our clients buy from us – they buy project management and time savings. They do not buy construction, but a person who makes sure that everything works out in the best possible way.