This blog post is a bonus in a series about what goes on in the various departments at Social123. Our company is made up of innovators and leaders that all come together to create and promote an industry-leading product in the contact data space.  These blogs are meant to give you an inside look of what goes on behind the scenes of our powerhouse company! Enjoy!

Perhaps after nearly 40 years in business, my professional calling has been realized.  While I know that I’m supposed to be on the senior tour by now and do honestly excel at holding the door for people (“finally found a job I’m good at”), it is in the cavernous and artificial confines of exhibition halls where all of my skills come together in a master souffle of salesmanship, comedy and Fitbit-obsessed step counting. I am a Trade Show Dude.

A professional gets paid to do his craft and I receive a check for traveling the country selling my wares, following in the glorious footsteps of snake-oil salesmen from a bygone era. Decked out in a company-supplied uniform (Ok, only the shirt and not the Tommy Johns), I take refuge with the security guards and the generally young people whose job it is to “man the booth”.  Whether a 10’ by 10’ or 20’ by 20’, this glorified patch of space usually padded with over-plush carpet is my Fenway Parkway, my Augusta National, my Cathedral.  Shrouded in bright florescent lights with the booth pews lined in perfect formation awaiting the trade show faithful, the exhibit hall is my canvas and I am it’s Rembrandt.

Don’t let anybody tell you it is easy work doing booth duty. You must bring your A game at all times, always have a clever line or two up your sleeve (“accelerating revenues this way, declining revenues over there”) and never get too engrossed in any particular conversation as you might miss somebody important walking by.  You need good eyes so you can carefully pick out the company names of harried attendees and not waste precious words on conference personnel.   Multi-tasking and good aerobic skills are also a prerequisite because at times, you must dodge people who haven’t had a meal since breakfast making a beeline for lunch while trying to scan somebody’s badge and not touch, prod or poke too near, um, their privacy.

I have been injured on the job both mentally and physically. One time somebody did not stop when I tried to talked to them and it hurt my pride.  Another time a shelf collapsed on my foot at the Oracle conference.  Let’s just say that Larry Ellison and I now both own a decent size stake in the company.

Being a professional Trade Show Dude has it perks.  I got to visit the exact same hotel in Las Vegas twice in a two-week period.  I just left my suitcase, had them clean my stuff and put it right back in my fancy suite at the MGM Grand.  I wish. The Opryland Hotel in Nashville also made an impression if you want to remain in a enclosed bubble while working a trade show bubble.

Trade shows are great for making new friends, and I have become a bit of a regular and a minor celebrity on the B2B marketing circuit.  There are times when I have even tutored young people from other companies on how to work the trade show floor.  I know they appreciate the advice from the stiff, gray-haired guy with the Ray Romano voice showing them the ropes.  They have even offered to buy me a free drink or give me promotional sunglasses so I would go away quietly.

But one guy I met on the circuit didn’t have such an opportunity.  I met him while working out one afternoon during a lull in the trade show action.  Just me and him and handful of others.  He was on the stairmaster.  So I went on the stairmaster.  When he went on the treadmill,  I went on the treadmill. Yes, I was stalking him and finally got the courage up to introduce myself.  I asked him a question about his Keynote speech that morning and now the Co-CEO of Oracle and I exchange emails.

Such is the life of the Trade Show Dude.

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