“Give me a shot,” said Larry Powenski, stepping up to the microphone at The Sign Business Show in Indianapolis.
The year was 1994, and Powenski’s company, Denver Sign Supply Company, had been exhibiting at the events since the Sign Graphics Show in 1991. Over the years, he noticed that such a professional trade show was lacking a professional voice. “Nobody did a welcome announcement and then when they had an announcement, it didn’t sound very professional,” Powenski recalls. “They realized that they kind of needed to do this consistently and professionally.”
When the former emcee of the show couldn’t be there, Powenski asked Sue Hueg, vice president of NBM Events, for the opportunity.
“I’m sure that with my West Texas accent, Sue thought, ‘How’s this guy going to sound on a microphone?'” he jokes. “When I got on the microphone, my voice totally changed.” And Powenski has been the voice of THE NBM SHOW ever since.
He loves getting into character when speaking into the microphone, doing both the opening and closing announcements at the show, as well as making announcements throughout the day. “I try to get rid of some of my West Texas accent and get into more of an announcing-type of voice,” he laughs.
“The best thing is being enthusiastic, trying to get people off on the right foot and get people excited about the show for the day,” he adds. “At the end, I say it’s going to be a good day and encourage people to come back. I like to leave them on a good note for the evening.”
The native Texan is a trade show veteran and prides himself on professionalism both inside and outside of the convention center. Powenski has been a business owner since he established Denver Sign Supply Company, named after his hometown of Denver City, Texas, in 1979.
Although he has no background in broadcasting, Powenski takes great pride in being the voice of THE NBM SHOW, even if his company is not exhibiting. “Even if we don’t exhibit, I try to make it to the show,” he says, adding that he makes a point to travel to California for the show in Long Beach, as well as coming to Indianapolis and Arlington every year.
Throughout the years, Powenski has seen a number of changes, not only in the format of the events, but also in the attendees. Decades ago, the different markets that now comprise THE NBM SHOW (awards, apparel decorating and sign-making) were in separate halls, encouraging isolation among the exhibitors and attendees. In 1994, The Printwear Show and The Sign Business Show were in the same hall and The A&E Show was next door. “If you were exhibiting in the sign section of the hall and saw someone come over from A&E, you didn’t even really want to talk to them,” Powenski laments, “but now it’s a total crossover. You don’t care where they’re from or what their specialty is. Everyone is doing everything now.”
Being the voice of THE NBM SHOW certainly has its perks and lends to the sense of community in the exhibit halls. As Powenski walks the halls, he is often recognized by exhibitors and attendees alike, despite the fact that he is sometimes obscured by a curtain when on the mic. “Sometimes, in fact, it surprises me,” he says, recalling an incident at THE NBM B.I.G. SHOW in Long Beach, where he was approached by an exhibitor in the hall. “She said, ‘You’re the guy on the microphone.’ I didn’t know her, but it’s a good thing when they recognize you. Especially with attendees. I always try to be friendly to the attendees because they’re the people who make the show,” he says.
“I take pride in getting on the microphone. It’s not necessarily the notoriety, but I enjoy bringing professionalism to it. Through the years, I’ve begun to be recognized by folks I didn’t know before. It’s a fun, kind of novelty thing.”
He is a welcome presence, says Hueg, noting that Powenski was one of the first exhibitors in the sign market at the second Sign Graphics Show in Orlando in 1991. “He brings his support of our event, friendliness and his voice,” she says.
Powenski says he plans to emcee the trade shows for as long as he’s able. “I’ll be like Don Pardo on Saturday Night Live,” he jokes. “I’ll be 95, doing the announcements from my home.”
For more information on THE NBM SHOW and how to see Powenski in action, visit www.THENBMSHOW.com.