Running an operation the size of the Mississippi Business and Technology EXPO in a building the size of the Mississippi Trade Mart in Jackson is quite an undertaking.
At approximately 67,000 square feet, the Trade Mart is big enough to hold more than two dozen average-sized houses and can take some time to fill with booths, tables, chairs, food, beverages, banners, signs and everything else that comes along with the event. Filling the Trade Mart with paraphernalia and then emptying it out once EXPO ends requires a huge amount of work by an army of people.
EXPO is a special project of the Mississippi Business Journal.
And it would have zero chance of getting off the ground without the volunteers who work long hours tying up all the loose ends. The Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, which sends its Ambassadors Council to help with the event, is one of several businesses and agencies who provide manpower to do everything from toting tables and chairs to directing participants to their booths.
“They pretty much do whatever is asked,” said Lynda Raines, director of membership services at the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership. “Actually, they get points from me for doing it.”
Raines said the GJCP has traditionally provided between 20 and 30 volunteers for EXPO, and the number will probably be similar for this year’s event.
EXPO is only one of many events the Ambassadors Council uses to spread the word about the GJCP.
“They’re all over the metro area,” Raines said. “They’re phenomenal, and they really represent us well. They’re very well-seen and that makes for good exposure for us.”
Exhibitors, sponsors, partners and participants will pack the Trade Mart starting next Wednesday to market themselves, seek new ideas, network and socialize. EXPO is Mississippi’s largest business-to-business event. It ends Thursday afternoon.
But before the doors open there is yeoman’s work – and lots of it – to be done behind the scenes. And nearly all of it is performed by volunteers.
Volunteers greet those attending the various award ceremonies like the Business Woman of the Year Luncheon, the Top 40 Under 40 Luncheon and Best Places to Work Kick-off Breakfast. They answer questions and give directions and advice.
The job description is short: Whatever is needed, be ready to do it. And be prepared for the all the efforts to go largely unnoticed.
“That’s what makes all the volunteers so special,” said Ashley Varnes, account executive with the Mississippi Business Journal. “They do most of the hard work and because a lot of it comes before and after EXPO starts, they can labor anonymously. It takes someone with an incredible amount of drive to volunteer at an event the size and scope of EXPO. We couldn’t do it without them, and their efforts certainly aren’t lost on us. I’ve said it a thousand times, but putting on an event this big and with as many moving pieces as EXPO without the huge number of volunteers would be similar to cutting a good-sized yard with a pair of scissors.”