Trade Shows – I love ‘em.

March 08, 2010  •  Leave a Comment

I was thinking this morning about how much I love trade shows. They’re full of brilliant characters and its always fun to see what swag you can nab from the stands.. so here’s my take on the whole phenomena.

Of course, some of these observations are not all about one venue or show – but an amalgamation of years of research and trawling through Trade shows and expos around the country.

You’ve got your pass in the mail, you’ve consulted the ‘seminar guide’ and circled the talks you want to go to.. so its time to hit the road and spend 3 hours travelling to the venue.

I love the walk from the over-priced car park where you’ve already been in line for 20 minutes behind overly excited sales-people and visitors to pay for your car park space.

Then there’s the delighful walk miles to the main door, around the back of the exhibiton centre, whilst you desparately try and mind- map the route to the front door so you can get back there later. You could of course wait 20 minutes for the shuttle bus which is caked in leaflets and plastic bags that people have deposisted there because they dont want to take them home- and feel a little disappointed that you’ve seen some leaflets that give away some of the secrets of what lies within the big doors to the exhibition halls.

You’ve inevitably chosen the wrong day to visit. Its ‘student’ day so you have to push past loads of Indy kids and teenagers smelling of Joss-sticks and Patchouli oil.

You eagerly attach your lanyard to the pass- and wonder why you have a green band on the badge whereas everyone else has yellow, what DOES it mean, I think I’m special because I have green. I am the best. Green means brilliance. The reality is probably that green meens ‘waste of space, dont even talk to me’

So you collect your show guide from the self-tanned brunette in tight black trousers and flat shoes, and decide ‘This year, I’m going to have a system, I’m going to walk up and down each aisle so I see everything.’

This lasts approximately 5 minutes before you’re distracted by a fire-breathing woman on stilts or a giant teddy bear handing out candy.

Once you wade past all the students looking at kit they can’t afford, you then walk up to stands displaying kit you have been reading about (but can’t afford) have a visit onto the stand that has the MOST expensive kit in the universe on, and watch men take photos of an oriental lady in a short skirt for their ‘special’ collection, whilst they pretend its for ‘testing’ purposes.

You become very disappointed with the lack of ‘free stuff’ at the stands. Surely it’s not already been given out. You manically collect plastic bags hoping there’s something other than a pen inside…perhaps a keychain, or a torch, or a torch keychain. Something. Not JUST leaflets. PLEASE!

A few stands grab your attention – but loiter at your peril. You’ve only just arrived and not in the mind-set of wanting some sales-person to chat to you.. so you loiter slightly further from the stand – ‘dont make eye contact’ you tell yourself.. dont.. make..eye..contact. DAMMIT she’s seen you..cue fake smile while she tries to see your name badge. You can hear her brain computing.. ‘name… occupation.. are they worth talking to?.. OH NO HE’S GREEN’ she stops smiling and looks away. WHAT? not even offer to scan your badge.. the ‘green line paranoia’ builds. Not even a M&M from their stand to keep your energy levels up. Anyway… Where’s the free booze?

Twenty minutes later you’re still trying to pry some cheap champaign off a stand. You know the only way you will get some is if you hide that damn badge and pretend you are responsible for a multi-million Euro budget and you may just consider booking their hotel for 5000 people and a 6 month conference.

Mission success! You have a glass of fizz and meander happily to the next stand – now you’ve got your patter sorted. Time to try and get pissed. Four glasses later, the heartburn has started, you’ve lined up for 20 mins to get a scoop of free ice-cream and you’re on top of the world.

So – seminar time. There’s only one, possibly 2 seminars you think are of real interest, so you make your way over to the pre-fabricated ‘seminar room’ located somewhere between the male toilets and the area where they push massive bins full of empty bottles past at regular 2 minute intervals. The only problem you’re not the only person who thinks that this seminar is going to give them the secret to unlocking your sales potential, or indeed how to do something on a shoestring budget. The line extends around the corner, past the stand giving chocolate hearts wrapped in red foil…you’re not going to get a seat.

You get a seat. At the back, in the corner, so you can make a quick escape. Seminar starts. Guy in ill-fitting suit on stage with a neck-mic set too low. He asks if we can hear him. ‘No’ we say. Mic volume is put up. Feedback through the speakers. Mic level turned down. Time to check Twitter on the phone.

You then realise you’re sitting in a plastic rectangle with a roof made from strips of material. This has the accoustic properties of a ruler and a piece of string. Coupled with the catering staff pushing bins on wheels full of empty beer bottles past the side of the seminar space you realise you’re on a hopeless mission- but you stick it out. You may learn something…

The presenter informs you he realises you’re all tired after walking round all day. He then makes you stand up and ‘get interactive’. He needs to demonstrate that you can communicate and win business without talking, so proceeds to make monkey sounds and wave his arms furiously. You leave.

For the photo shows, perhaps visit a seminar at Canon or Nikon where they show you the most ridiculously well shot images and try and convince you that with this camera you too can achieve images like that. They dont tell you its been taken by a photographer with 60 years of experience and processed using NASA kit, in zero gravity.

Lunch time.. whoa what a choice.. you’ve spied out the ‘eateries’ while you’ve been wandering.. you’ve tried in vain to get satiated by eating chocolates and canapes from as many stands as possible but you are weak. All this walking has made you hungry.

Why not grab an over-priced dry sandwich and a coke and not get change from 20 quid- OR spend 30 minutes waiting for a 6 inch Subway sandwich and not have anywhere to sit and eat it.

There’s always Pizza Express.. you have a voucher for that somewhere.. you check the small print.. ‘not valid in the Pizza Express you are currently standing next to.’ Of course its not. Dry sandwich it is.

A moment to contemplate the day so far.. and how long you can bear to stay for the afternoon..There’s a load of stands you haven’t seen, and you never know – THEY may have some good freebies.

3 hours later, laden with plasic bags and nothing in them apart from a mouse mat, pink stress ball and a badge. You make your way back to the exit.

Will you do it all again next year? OF COURSE you will!


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