The Stress Junkie: Cindy Sample Shares Her Tips for Success

By Bethany Bradsher, September 6, 2018

She’s a perfectionist who loves a challenge and, in her words, a “stress junkie.” Cindy Sample might have fallen into the trade show industry by accident, but two decades on show floors have reinforced her belief that the job is a perfect fit for her.

As director of trade show operations for National Association of Music Merchants, Sample has worked for the past five years to ensure her organization’s two annual shows—the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California, in January and Summer NAMM in Nashville in June and July—succeed in bringing the music industry together and growing business for their vendors.

At times, she says, keeping a trade show humming feels like an impossible challenge, but it’s a challenge she is always happy she tackled when the booths are packed up and the satisfied vendors and customers travel back to their homes.

“I got hooked after my first show,” says Sample, who experienced her first trade show in 1995 when she worked in the action sports industry. “It just kept drawing me back because it was that creative element where you get to plan this amazing multifaceted event from the beginning, and then watch it come together, and then do it again and again. You keep getting to refine and make improvements. Being a perfectionist, it feeds into that—my need to get it right. It’s just not for the faint of heart.”

NAMM’s centerpiece show is held each January in Anaheim. During the 2018 event, more than 2,000 vendors from every corner of the music industry displayed their wares. In addition to the hubbub on the Anaheim Convention Center floor, the show featured a full slate of musical performances and technology demonstrations. The 2016 NAMM Show was named trade show of the year by Trade Show Executive magazine.

For a trade show coordinator, successfully closing out a show of that scope brings an immense exhale and a sense of gratification. But Sample also loves the more intimate feel of the summer event, which, with less than 600 booths, allows her to walk around and visit with each exhibitor. She is particularly proud of NAMM’s advocacy and charitable efforts, with a portion of proceeds from the trade show going to support music education around the globe.

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