At the Trade Show, “Rubbin’ Elbows is Racin’…”
Working the Racing Trade Show Exhibit Floor as an Attendee is like working the room at a cocktail party. There are lots of tales and everyone has one to tell. The trick is figuring out which one will lead to the Big Deal. Here are a few tips from my 30 years of practice.
Working the Racing Trade Show Exhibit Floor as an Attendee is like working the room at a cocktail party. There are lots of tales and everyone has one to tell.
The trick is figuring out which one will lead to the Big Deal. Here are a few tips from my 30 years of practice. If you see someone you recognize and want to talk to, but you can’t remember their name, quietly ask your other friends to fill in the blanks.
You will likely encounter people you know from all areas of your life, including family, race track, home town, church and pictures in racing magazines. Out of context, your mind will struggle to come up with your best friend’s name. If the skinny guy with the fancy cowboy hat somehow looks familiar, but you can’t place him or remember his name, now is not the time to ask him. He may be Richard Petty or your Pastor. Either way, get his autograph.
When you reach a booth of interest, approach slowly and first take its temperature from a short distance. If it is too crowded with competitors to even see the parts, just pass it by on this lap and continue on. If everyone is leaning on their table and looks bored to death, it may be a great time for a meaningful discussion.
If you come upon a young lady signing posters, pay no attention to her skimpy outfit or charming smile and focus on the racing products being offered. Excuse me, I said pay attention to the products being… Oh, never mind, just get the autograph and put the poster in your man-cave.
Cameras are typically not allowed on the Show Floor. No one wants a picture put on Facebook with them in the background talking to someone they shouldn’t be seen with, even though everyone at the Show saw them too. The Exhibitors have paid big bucks to be there and they don’t want anyone from a foreign country taking detailed measurements of their products. But no one will notice if you whip out your cell phone to make a quick call. Just don’t accidentally capture a picture of your competitor’s trick new part. That’s against the rules and Racers don't cheat, do they... Grab and move!
You are not expected to speak to everyone and you are not interested in purple fuzzy dice or back massages. If an Exhibitor wants to draw you into his lair and you are not really interested in his products, politely decline and keep moving. If he has a bowl of your favorite candy, ask some quick questions while you fill your pockets. You learned that move on Halloween.
Watch for free hand-out bags and grab 2 of the stoutest you see other people carrying. Double-bag (you remember that move from your first job) and start grazing for catalogs. You will need them later to figure out where that trick new part comes from. Leave the heavy ones to pick up later as you leave the Show.
“You can observe a lot by watching,” Yogi Berra.
After several hours, everyone’s Trade Show attention account is quickly draining. Make a pit stop and add some fuel. Find a seat and a friend and just be a passive fly on the wall for a bit. Like a Spotter high in the stands, you will notice conversations underway all around you that will raise new questions and answer old questions.
At some point in the later day, the crowd will thin out and it will feel like Happy Hour. It is for you, but now is not the time to start drinking. Go back to the best booth experience you had all day and re-visit that booth. Ask that question that has really been bugging you and make sure the Exhibitor personnel you met with will remember meeting you. Get the number and thank your new friend for exhibiting and spending quality time with you.
The Checkered Flag is In The Air! Finally, the Show Day will mercifully grind to a close and the announcement will come to clear the Hall. This is your 15 minute warning to start at the back of the Floor and work your way out on the Cool-Down Lap by snagging the heavy catalogs (and some more candy) you passed by earlier.
Staggering out the door with your bags bulging full of Racing Pay Dirt, you have won the Race. You have had an experience and made friends you will remember for a lifetime and you now have a dozen new ideas to try.
Oh, and you have that hot girl’s signed poster to hang up when you get home. When’s the next Show? I'll be there...