Phil: My work allows me the opportunity to visit trade shows now and again. These days it’s often halls full of interesting things to play with. Years ago, it was halls full of techie people trying to flog me things for Internet stuff.
Once upon a time, though, for one day only, I was actually one of the people manning a stand.
It was Hortex 2000, the horticultural industries biggest event of the year. I had spent month creating a CD-based manual for growers of ornamental plants. Well, I had taken the text provided by people who knew what they were talking about and beaten it into the publishing software that the thing ran on anyway. At least this was a prettier than the previous manual we’d published, on cabbages and Brussel sprouts!
Anyway, because I could wear a tie and was supposed to know about the disk, it fell to me to do some time on the stand.
My day started with getting lost in Telford. When I did make it in to the hall, I was largely ignored by the visitors. This was a relief as there wasn’t any point asking me technical questions on the content of the disk. Mind you, despite me, we still won “Product of the year” with it. Ha!
No, for technical grower stuff, you were pointed at one of the scientists.
Now, if I wasn’t wild about being on the stand, this was nothing compared to how they felt. The very concept of selling the results of their experiments was an anathema to them. Sadly, the world where bucket loads of government cash was being sloshed around had long since gone. Now we had a commercial arm of the organisation and a very impressive stand, the cost of which would have been the topic of conversation over many coffee breaks in the months to come. They were there to sell.
One or two saw this as an opportunity and tuned up in sharp suits with clean shoes. Most of the others didn’t see why they should dress any differently to the way they did at work. And that wasn’t very Saville Row. Our beautiful, gleaming white stand was occupied with people who, if they hadn’t needed them, the commercial staff would have shooed away for making the place look scruffy.
I can’t blame them. I didn’t want to be there. They didn’t want to be there. Unknowingly though, they have provided ideas for our book I didn’t know I’d be writing over a decade later.
Nowadays, I go to shows and collect freebies just like everyone else. I’m polite to the stand staff in case they too don’t want to be there. Worse, they could also be collecting ideas for a book…