Carine Preterre

Director of the Foire de Paris (Paris Fair)

It is like I’m the Mayor of a small city for a few days.”

How does one become director of the Foire de Paris (Paris Fair)?
It is the result of rich experiences and a beautiful opportunity! After graduating from EDHEC Business School, I worked for over 15 years in the mass market with Kodak, Pathé, Coca-Cola. These years of experience have taught me to put customers and innovation at the center of my job. Then I started my own business… Beyond the fact that the entrepreneurial spirit contributes to feed a feeling of personal accomplishment, I think it is a major and educational asset in a career. Autonomy, risk taking and the necessity to keep a global vision have shaped my taste for challenge. As an independent worker, I have counselled groups such as L’Oréal, Kronenbourg, Casino… And each time, I immersed myself into the image of these great brands. These years of entrepreneurship has undeniably contributed to reinforcing my will to always offer clients the most innovating experiences. Then I was approached to write a new page in the history of the Foire de Paris brand. It was huge challenge : giving a prospective vision all the while respecting the DNA of this “Great Lady” which was born during the 1904 World Exposition.
For 4 years, I have been the director of the Foire de Paris and I have had the opportunity to meet new people and new challenges every year.

The Foire de Paris is 12 days of exposition. How long does it take to organize an event like that?
The upstream organization phase is comparable to a fashion show; so, about a year in advance, while managing the ongoing event… It is crucial to learn from the previous edition so as to shape and launch new projects and new trends. Continuity and renewal are major stakes which require a strong yearly communication (brand content, social media, digital…) and permanent innovation. The result of this preparation comes true during 12 days, with a big live event at the Parc des Expo- sitions which becomes some sort of city of its own for the occasion. During these days, the equivalent of the city of Nantes population (1/2 million people) come to the Fair! It is like I’m the Mayor of a small city for a few days. I have to manage and coordinate 600 people in elds as varied as communication, business, marketing, logistics, security… All at the service of our 1,700 exhibitors, 3,500 brands and, of course, the visitors.

In a world where digital trends are more and more present, how can the Foire de Paris keep reinventing itself in 2017 ?
One trend does not necessarily eclipse the other. Quite the op- posite, technology can be used to serve the fair world: digital communication and physical encounters are complementary. For the Foire de Paris, digital communication is a tool that helps us spread the information, while recreating a community online… But the experience is only virtual. The live event is the promise of encounters, strong human relationship, live business, unique and festive experiences… It is also mainly the materialization of digital communication: allowing visitors to come see, touch, compare, and try for real in one single place everything that is being done in the world of housing. This kind of shopping experience allows visitors to make the right choice with what they buy. Renewing yourself also means spreading new trends. The Foire de Paris unveils trends. It has hosted two Maker Faire Paris editions, which is a movement of innovative handymen presented like the new industrial revolution associa- ting the Do-It-Yourself trend and the use of technological tools like 3D printers.
In parallel, for 2 years, the fair has been highlighting young entrepreneurs through its partnership with les Pionnières, a very innovating women start-up incubator.

This year, like every year, visitors will take part in exclusive events such as:
– French cafés championship, which is open to the great public for the very rst time and gathers the best baristas
– An interior design village: a brand-new space, the place to get advice, inspiration, experience and special objects.
– “Inventing your house today and tomorrow” in partnership with Leroy Merlin, which is a space that helps you build a home that suits you.
Visitors will always be at the center of our attention. So the Foire de Paris offers unique and personalized services, notably thanks to the daycare service for 3-12 year olds, the hands-free shopping service, the carrying service, the delivery service, and free experts advices (architects’, interior designers’, decorators’, etc.)

Tell us about your missions. What is the job ?
I feel like a conductor. I am responsible for the direction we are going and I must have a vision: imagining projects and then making them possible, encouraging initiatives (and entrepreneurship!) within my teams. For me, that is the everyday challenge. I have to enhance my team’s skills for one goal: giving the visitors the best experience. In order to do so, I also have to occasion meetings all year through and give each one of them the same consideration. It is huge, but in fact very enriching. From individuals to big company bosses, including various farmers and craft workers… Together they make up the soul of the Foire de Paris.

Which qualities does one need to do that job ?
Being the director of the Foire de Paris is like being an army knife; you have to encompass the various jobs, stakes and missions, embody brands and speak up… But you also have to be a leader and very dynamic. You need to love working and getting involved. Empathy and sense of human relations are essential to this job.

By Stéphanie GUITTONNEAU

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