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by Kate Kurtzman

This past March, I attended my first ever professional event, The London Book Fair. As a Senior Marketing Major at the College of Charleston, I was granted the experience of marketing intern for KnowledgeWorks Global Ltd (KGL) and was fortunate enough to have the incredible opportunity of attending the London Book Fair.

With not much prior background in the publishing industry, I was amazed with the passion, knowledge, and excitement at the fair. From exploring the buzzing show floor, to attending intriguing stage sessions, to staffing a busy exhibit booth, the London Book Fair taught me many things about this illustrious industry.

Prior Preparation

I did not realize how much time and effort goes into setting up events the size of the London Book Fair, for both exhibitors and the facility itself. I learned that most exhibit booths need to be planned and rented out a year prior. The all-important meetings that take place within the booths are also scheduled far in advance.

Olympia London’s Grand and National Galleries dedicate considerable time to preparing its grounds, as I observed firsthand when assisting with our booth setup. The facility was full of activity in the days leading up to the show, with construction workers hurriedly laying carpet and applying last-minute touches. I quickly discovered the necessity of wearing a neon vest and flat-soled boots for entry into the setup area. Unfortunately, I discovered this requirement in real time due to my initial choice of heeled boots. Thankfully, my colleague came to my rescue with a pair of spare shoes, though hilariously oversized, they enabled me to get the job done. I will make sure to prepare by reviewing the dress code for any future trade show setups.

Knowledge Gained

Alongside gaining insights on preparation, the London Book Fair was also a wealth of knowledge for attendees. KGL, for example, generated a lot of interest in its new tool, Smart Review. Publishers were very eager to learn about automating the many different time-consuming tasks throughout the journal peer review process.

I had the privilege of attending a few stage sessions, which further expanded my knowledge of the industry. As a young woman on the brink of entering the business world, one session that resonated deeply with me was “ShEO’s in Publishing – Women Pioneering the Pages.” Key takeaways that this discussion among female CEOs taught me were to uplift and empower other women, to advocate against discrimination, to learn from other women’s experiences, and to believe in myself.

At the London Book Fair, there were also insightful stage sessions dedicated to the exploration of AI. One notable observation was that despite the vast opportunities it presents, AI remains a new and risky technology. Publishers are faced with the decision of cautiously embracing these risks or jumping into them. Additionally, I learned the importance of maintaining robust copyright laws for protection, especially when it comes to text being ingested by Large Language Models.

Connections Are Key

In addition to finding out more about the industry, the London Book Fair taught me that connections and networking are key to being successful. While my fully remote internship provided valuable learning opportunities, attending the fair allowed me to connect with my team on a more personal level and engage in hands-on experiences. This also extends to customer interactions. Sitting down and talking with customers allows for new discoveries, meaningful connections, and strengthened relationships.

Apart from the endless business that takes place throughout the fair, there’s also lots of business that happens outside of the fair. I observed numerous instances of professionals connecting throughout London, whether over a prolonged dinner at a famous restaurant, during casual drinks at a pub, or even while taking a leisurely stroll in the park.

In Conclusion

The London Book Fair allows publishers and other industry players to come together and accomplish remarkable things. Throughout the event, I learned about the importance of being prepared, the many sides of the industry, self-belief as a woman, insights into AI, and the value of networking. I feel privileged to have been a part of this incredible experience and am eager to carry the knowledge and skills acquired at the London Book Fair into my future endeavors.

Kate Kurtzman serves as Marketing Intern for KnowledgeWorks Global Ltd. She graduates from the College of Charleston with a BS in Marketing in May 2024 before embarking on a Masters in Business Administration at the University of Cincinnati. 

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