Termination: Show and Tell

Show and tell.


2 August 2010

Text:/ Graeme Hague

You may have noticed there’s a lot of stuff regarding InfoComm this issue. A couple of blokes from the AV office jetted off to Las Vegas for baccarat and free beer, as well as the latest and greatest in gadgetry at Infocomm. Bastards. I’m allowed a trip to the post office and that’s about it. 

But I don’t care – honest. Truly, I’m okay with it. I’ve been to plenty of trade shows and I know exactly what was there. Who needs a trip to bloody Las Vegas – with its endless buffets, dancing girls and razzle dazzle – anyway?

Trade shows are crazy, predictable, exciting, boring, noisy, dull, fascinating places. In short, they are what you make of them. You can come away inspired and informed, or with sore feet and a too-much-useless-information headache. Some insiders’ tips can help and even though I was once again left behind, I’ll pass them on.

First you need some understanding of the people running the displays. Mostly they’re local sales reps press-ganged into service for the duration and you have to be careful about when you approach these folks, if you want the good oil. Their enthusiasm for the task is on a sliding scale directly proportional to the length of the trade show. They’ll be surreptitiously packing up gear several hours before the doors finally close. For goodness sake, don’t roll up late and ask about something that’s already boxed up and taped, particularly if the Stanley knife is still in their hand.

Some booths are populated by real pros, people who travel and sell for a living, and run the build and presentation of their stand like Cirque du Soleil. These guys are worth keeping close. They know the companies that always employ scantily-clad stand babes to promote products that have no possible sexual connection – and may even be able to organise an introduction.  The pros always have the comfiest chairs and a telly somewhere quietly tuned into the important sports. A good coffee machine will be lurking ’round the back and if you ask them very nicely at exactly the right juncture you may be introduced to beer fridge that’s hidden behind the partition — that’s hidden behind the other partition… under the desk. They know which companies are hosting functions later and where. They might even tell you how to get in. 

Of course, in return you’ll have to buy something from them.


In fairness, the problem from the other side of the sales counter is trying to determine who is visiting the expo with a genuine agenda, who is escaping the office on a company junket, and who has merely wandered in out of the weather attracted by the noise, flashing lights and aforementioned scantily-clad girls. As a registered and name-tagged punter, how do you get the sales folks to take you seriously without actually waving a wad of cash in the air?

Get your timing right. Burst through the doors in the opening seconds like it’s a Boxing Day sale and most likely everyone will believe you’re keen. In fact, arriving any time during the first morning is an indication that you’re worth talking to. Even better, the sales reps at the booths still have quite a high tolerance for people who may be… (narrow your eyes and spit sideways here) time-wasters.

Saunter through the entrance in the afternoon and we all know who you are – really. You’ve convinced the boss this is a must-see event, maybe you’ve had your airfare paid for and a motel room and you need to leave with at least a decent show bag of goodies to prove you made the effort. In truth, there are more important things on your mind…

Like scoring an invite to one of those famous, after-hours functions where there’s free beer, food and serious gossip to be exchanged. Some of these booze-ups are closely-guarded events and you’re expected to conceal any personal invitation even from your closest friends in case they ask if they can “come along” – which, of course, they can’t. Roll up with an unannounced colleague and you may never be invited again. Plainly, you’re too unreliable and indiscreet.


But back to correct expo etiquette.

Always accept a brochure. Declining to take one is akin to refusing a business card from a Japanese executive – a grave insult. You don’t want any sales reps slipping out the back and impaling themselves on their iPhone to atone for the utter loathing they feel for their lack of self-respect, do you? So take a brochure.

Always look interested, even if you’re not. Incredibly, it happens: some uninteresting things sneak into trade shows and you can find yourself trapped between the water cooler and the plasma display, listening to an endless spiel about a patent-pending wopple-sprocket. Weather the storm, smile and take a brochure. Move on quietly.

Always look knowledgeable, even if you’re hopelessly out of your depth. There’s always Google to fill in the blanks later. Take a brochure. Otherwise, appearing as if you don’t understand what you’re being told is a dead giveaway that it was never on your shopping list. You’re a filthy, tyre-kicking time-waster.

Always look alert. Trade shows are exhausting and concentration can lapse in the middle of even the best sales pitch. If it does, try grasping a handful of drawing pins in your jacket pocket – and tissues to staunch the bleeding. Works every time. Then take a brochure.


The good news is you can apply these tips and practice all the above techniques at Integrate 2010. We promise everything will be interesting, so get in early. We’re working on the scantily-clad girls, but there’s no guarantee. Unfortunately there will be no secret, after-hours Alchemedia nosh-up with free beer and canapés. Absolutely not. We don’t believe in that sort of behaviour. If you do hear a rumour of such a party, you didn’t hear it from us. And for Pete’s sake, don’t tell anyone else. The caterer will go nuts.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More for you