It feels like a long time since I have been on a stand at an exhibition, promoting the business I was working for at the time. Indeed it was probably back when I worked for Spicers in the office products trade. Then the annual British Office Supplies & Services Federation (BOSSFed) event, held in either London or Birmingham was a grand occasion. Spicers’ stand was massive, in keeping with its standing in the sector, and all depot general managers were expected to play their part. It was a very tiring affair, in the main due to extracurricular entertainment.
I am delighted, by the way, that Spicers has been resurrected from the dead and is trading again.
This time I found myself at the NE Schools Summit, a one day event held at Newcastle United. For me this was a much less grand affair, indeed I was the only person representing CyberNorth. I had come to promote the CyberFirst programme to schools and was there with a table, two chairs and three banners. I brought along some leaflets and soap as giveaways.
I wasn’t selling anything yet I wanted to talk to as many schools as I could. Cyber security is not an easy subject to get teachers engaged with however. At the start, all of the exhibitors were in a similar position to me, sitting behind their tables ever hopeful of passing potential customers. I was getting nowhere and so decided to come out from behind my table and stand in front, leaflets in hand and hawk my wares.
I was determined that nobody would pass me by and I had much greater success. Being located near the buffet helped though as the queue for lunch gave me a captured audience but towards the end I found that I was stopping the same person two or three times. It is difficult to remember who you have spoken to.
Interestingly, one by one, each of the exhibitors followed my lead and ended up on the right side of the table until, by the end, we were all out front. I don’t know why exhibitions are set up this way. It is not conducive to meaningful engagement and, if I ever attend something similar, I will start out as I mean to carry on.
After lunch the exhibition started to pack away. Most businesses had brought freebies to give away. Pens, pads and sweets were the norm yet there were the odd things such as stress balls, cupcakes and our soap. As the close beckoned there was a general flurry of activity as it was clear that no one wanted to take their swag back to the office. Perhaps that is what they are measured on, how much stuff they managed to give away. The exhibition closed in a mad giveaway of merchandise.
I got to speak to a lot of people and hopefully some of our message got through but my visit to the NE Schools Summit reminded me what strange things trade shows are.