Kellie Donato didn’t plan a career in the trade show industry. She was pursuing an Education degree and working part time for a major trade show booth builder when the exhibit bug bit her hard. She quickly abandoned dreams of teaching gym and drama full time and embraced her new career. As the industry consolidated, she moved from company to company until she met and worked alongside Dennis Fitzgerald. When he founded DesignCentrix, she quickly followed him and found a home. “DesignCentrix is unique in the industry. You have a real relationship with Dennis and everyone in the office and shop. I love being part of a family and not just a cog in a wheel.”
As an account manager, Kellie acts as liaison between the client, the shop and the show venue. She manages all the numerous details that must occur like clockwork for an event to be a success. This includes everything from the color of the carpet to the style of furniture and special audio visual needs.
Needless to say, it takes a highly organized person to keep on top of all the deadlines and intricacies involved in managing her client’s events, let alone juggling several at a time. Kellie credits her drama training for helping her handle the load as she essentially acts as producer, director and stage manager for each event.
While Kellie appreciates computer technology, she stays analog, keeping track of all upcoming events with the whiteboard and calendar found on her office walls. “I’ve always used this system to keep track of what’s coming up and what needs to happen right now. I put tons of letters and notes on the board so they’re the first thing I see when I come in.”
Working her way up through the industry has given Kellie a unique view of the process. “I’ve seen firsthand how it all works. I have a clear picture of how things should be progressing at each step and always have an action plan that keeps everything moving.”
However proficient Kellie is with the details, her most powerful talent is her ability to create solid relationships with her clients. She works hard to learn their personalities and their work ethics and meld them together with her own. “I try to be as honest as I can and as upfront as possible. It has to be authentic. You can’t build trust by lying to a customer or leading them on.”
What makes it all worthwhile for Kellie is when she sees an idea for an exhibit go from a wild impossibility to reality and knows she was a part of the team that accomplished it. When clients beam and say they couldn’t have done it without her, she knows she picked the right career.