Today was the first day of a three-day industry trade show. This one is much tamer than ones I’ve done in the past, but I’m still thankful that being an exhibitor is not a major component of my job responsibilities.
Past trade show gigs basically played out like this:
- Arrive at [random city] the day before the show starts to set up.
My part of setup involved unpacking and connecting computers and neatly stacking preprinted collateral. (Marketing people love collateral.) Inexplicably, everything is covered with a thick layer of pervasive dust that comes off only after a long shower.
The worst part of setup is dealing with the multiple layers of exhibition hall labor. (If you’ve been an exhibitor, you know exactly what I mean by this statement. For example, several years ago I had a foreman tell me, with a straight face, that my shattered 21″ monitor was from my poor packing and in no way related to the two forklift-spaced holes in the box.) Ideally, you’ll have someone like Susan Dennis on your side to act as a buffer between this alternate-reality and whup them good.
- On show days, stand around, talk to people, stand around, flirt with the professional models hired to draw crowds, stand around and try to sneak food and water into the booth.
- At the end of each day, return to the hotel room and stuff my luggage with the unopened hotel soaps. I’d spend half an hour, lying on the bed in my skivvies, room A/C on full, watching the Weather Channel until my feet were no longer numb. After that, I’d wash up and reconvene with coworkers to eat, drink, and party like it was 1999.
- Repeat the previous two steps until show is over or someone gets arrested. (I was just making up the last one to see if anyone was reading this.)
- Rip apart the booth, accumulate a new layer of trade show dust to take back on the plane with me, and get the heck out of Dodge.
The original schedule had the exposition hall available to exhibitors for setup until 11 a.m. and the public allowed in at noon. When we showed up at 10:15, the exhibition staff was trying to reallocate our booth space to another company. Niiiice. The two suitcases containing our booth were there, and we had it fully-assembled in a half-hour. It’s an impressive piece of portable, plastic magneto-engineering.
The group running the show has done a good job of trying to drive traffic through the exhibition hall. Instead of having the food venue in a separate, sit-down room, they have sprinkled serving tables throughout the periphery of the hall. During the lunch and evening sessions, people come through in waves. At other times, traffic has been very light. I really wish they’d just close the exhibition down for the two hours and let us attend to other stuff. Work is piling up at my office.
This conference is being held in the self-proclaimed biggest little city in the world, Reno, NV. The slot machines, lack of clocks and cigarette stench overwhelm the senses with “Nevada casino.” However, the town lacks Vegas’ absurd extravagance: there are no exploding volcanos, dueling warships, or mini-statues of liberty.
My hotel’s TV has fifteen channels, with no freebie premium ones for obvious reasons. Five channels are dedicated to hawking the amenities of the hotel (crystal wine decanters or portraits of Elvis, anyone?) and offering gaming instruction. The instruction covers Baccarat, Roulette, some Poker variant with dice, Blackjack and Craps. I find this all hard to take at once, because it’s complicated. I would conjecture this is where cell phone companies find inspiration for their plans’ pricing. Anyway, many of the examples feature healthy-looking people winning the particular examples, a sharp contrast to the decrepit people I see camped out on the slot machines and Keno tables as I navigate the lobby.
My SIL says craps are the best odds in the casino. I watched the first 30-minutes of the instructional spiel in anticipation of grokking it more when I tagged along with a coworker. We agreed I would just spectate and he wouldn’t blame me for any bad mojo. In the half hour he played, he ended up $37 (almost 100%). At times, the game was going very fast with two guys managing customer chips and one guy using a stick to herd the dice to the player throwing them. It was fun to watch, but thoroughly confusing.
There were bets, bets against bets, and stupid bets. While my coworker placed $2 bets, a guy across from him managed to piss away $1,100 in about five minutes. He’d put $200 in bills down on bets that made even less sense to me than the overall game. With his wallet depleted of about $1,000, he left. As the staff was reconciling his rapid succession of high bets, they realized he had overpaid them by $100. They called him by name to point out the mistake and gave him the $100 chip back. He promptly put that down and successfully ran it back up to $1,000 before losing it all and sulking away for the rest of the evening.
This guy was definitely not James Bond. Rather, he looked very desperate in his gambling.