Another blast from the past, and one leading me to realize I have a lot more cleanin’ to be doin’, was finding this pair of trade show badges being used as bookmarks. These are from a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, when I worked in a completely different industry than I do now.
Since I didn’t do much travel when I was a kid, there was, initially, some allure to jetting off to Vegas, New York City, San Francisco, Nashville, and other places… on an expense account.
A typical trip timeline:
Day 0: Get badges, set up the booth, and pray there isn’t equipment missing or damaged. There were always problems, which is why we had a secret weapon: Paula. She was a middle-aged divorcée in charge managing the show. Not only was she used to dealing with child-like personalities (like her ex-, foremen), she did not take guff.
Once the booth was set up, we all got a good meal then partied like it was 1999. My boss was the grandmaster.
Day 1 – (n-1): Skip breakfast to get those few precious extra minutes of sleep, then hightail it to the convention center. Stand on our feet all day, repeat the same basic demo pitch, give away free stuff. When vendors come by to sell you advertising space in their “exclusive” magazine or sign you up for some event you’ve never heard of, send them to Paula. They deserve no less.
- Some conslutant from one of the big shot analyst firms. Our VP of Marketing was primed for the mating dance of ensuring we’re in the top, right quadrant in exchange for contracting out industry “research” and analyst ego stroking.
- VIP customers. I enjoyed (and still do enjoy) meeting customers face-to-face. We’d load them up with tchotchkes.
- Competitors, hoping to extract some nugget of competitive advantage. My reaction was to always give them the best demo I could. (Really, it’s nothing they shouldn’t be able to get via other methods; this just gives me an opportunity to apply spin.) I could tell how successful I was by how pale they turned when I asked for a demo in return. (Thought so.)
At the end of the day, go back to the hotel room, lie semi-clothed on the hotel bed, air conditioning on at full blast (Vegas), until the feeling in my feet returns. Convene with the group and have dinner together.
Day n: Wander around the hall, exchanging tchotchkes with other vendors. Pack up everything. Catch the last flight home.
I loved the group camaraderie, but when the frequency of these events kept increasing such that I wasn’t getting any “down” (or “me”) time, I got kind of punchy. The silliest example of rebellion was taking liberties with the job titles for the badges. The two above were my favorite because the inevitable direct mailing that ensued from all the list sharing generated amusement both in the mail room and in the department.