Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Trade Show

The presenter's view at a trade show

A trade show is a geek spectacle, a "circle-the-calendar" annual event for those "experts" of an often arcane field who find riveting the incremental advancements of a given industry. Never mind that one person's sense of riveting is another person's sense of revolting - what matters is the enthusiasm that accompanies the person's occupational pursuit.

And, of course, the paycheck and obligation.

This week I had a front-row seat  to the spectacle; I was a demo sidekick to a professional presenter. I played straight man to the antics of my polished sidekick, the sort of character who would comfortably fill out the cast of a weekly network sitcom. The conventioneers shuffled past, catching themselves at our twice-hourly episodes and stopping to listen in to the talk track of our booth. I conjectured on their motivations. Some were weary and sat for respite. Some were eager and looking for a job. Some were competitive and looking for an angle. Some were confused and looking for a clue. Still more were curious and looking for insights. All were loitering past with the kind of wandering glances that marked them easy prey for my polished sidekick. Once the hook lines were thrown and the self-deprecating comments laid, the show was in full swing and held the local attention for 5-8 minutes.

Conventioneer faces were illuminating as they stared up at us during the demo. Their expressions devolved into various states of  reflection, which made the read difficult. Boredom? Imminent creative explosion? Forgefulness? Breakthrough thinking? Constipation? In most cases, we would never know because many conventioneers returned to loitering with the wandering glances they carried onto the comfy theater benches. A few lingered at the stage and bombarded us with detailed questions, enough to consume the balance of time until the next show. A rare couple stayed for a command performance. Then, 15 shows later, the day was done.

A trade show means long days. 500-600 people and 30 shows later, we held our last performance in front a couple of booth stragglers and the cleaning crews poised for show close. We hardly finished the last act before the booth displays started coming down. By then, the geek spectacle had dissipated, those wandering glances drifting off somewhere out of the convention center and into the city, to collect the next paycheck and to count down the days until next year's riveting spectacle. 
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