We spend half a day at the Excel Centre in London and visit the HETT Show, The Technology for Marketing Show; and the Climate Change Show. And with the decibel levels at the average Trade Fair reaching +91 and more, and the proven risk of damaging our hearing, we look at the unthinkable; – do we really need to come to these places anymore?
And the answer is; yes of course we do – because we meet people that we want to meet and we would not meet n any other convenient setting. But that’s not the question.
What we should really ask is, just how much do we “need” to do it. And if the answer is “well, – a lot”; – then the next question is; “Well, there must be better ways, of getting to meet our next customer, future employer, drinking companion”.
Because the fact is – if you spend more than one hour in these surroundings of modern Trade Fairs, then the risk of damaging your hearing, is high. I know that, because my new Apple Watch tells me so. I tap on the health icon and there it is, with a nice yellow triangle alongside.
It was so easy two years ago, – we just didn’t go. We weren’t allowed to. And life and meetings sort of worked, just about. But the writing was on the wall; the inevitable, as soon as those restrictions were lifted, was always going to be – perhaps a little hesitant at first – but all the while gaining in strength, – that people don’t just like to be with other people, there is a social need, to be with other human beings.
We read body language, we make subconscious decisions, we get a “feel” for people, and we saunter up and say “hello” and start to pitch something. Except that the other person, behind their smile, cannot really hear what we are saying – and we cannot hear what they are replying. It is all just too loud!
There is a small queue at 09.00am for the HETT Healthcare Show and it takes just a few minutes to show my badge, and there are already quite a few people wandering around; they are exhibitors mostly, and they are looking out over the competition. So, I wander in. What is obvious, even by 09.30, is that my 16.30 interview slot that the Organisers have promised me, has no chance of happening. There is just too much background noise, and it will get in the way of the sound recording.
It gets worse. I smile and approach a nice young lady on a stand. She is about to explain “what they do”, and a complete stranger strides over and introduces himself, and is semi-shouting: “great to see you Richard!” And then direct to the young lady; “you gotta work with this man!” He appears to know me and I have never met him in my life. But it is already buzzing and I don’t have the heart to explain. I smile and somehow or other we exchange business cards but I have no clue why.
It get’s to 11.00am and I and a client find our way to another Stand for a pre-arranged meeting. But we all decide that there are too many people, let’s go into the open space outside and find a coffee table? We are outside, and there are no free tables. We agree to arrange a Zoom meeting. My colleague has flown from Scandinavia for this meeting, the night before.
I manage another one hour of this, and then decide to leave and cross the avenue to the Technology for Marketing show.
Wow, this is so buzzing! Somebody from Gartner comes up and wants to know if I can join him for lunch. He thinks I am from the corporate stand adjacent – it just happens my Polo shirt is identical to theirs. It’s an easy mistake! We share biz cards. Nobody tries to scan my badge etc – we are in the real world of sales and marketing. You give biz cards, with your photo on, because you want people to REMEMBER you.
But you are also vulnerable to every hot salesman on every stand, and they are ALL good! A 19yr old young guy becomes my best friend in just a few seconds and persuades me to register for a demo for some software that I don’t need. But he is so nice and amiable, – did I know he was just 19yrs old?, he asks ) – no, I didn’t.
I really cannot hear anybody by this time, so I quit and in the comparative tranquility of the avenue between all the shows etc, I take a cup of tea, without milk, because the girl serving, forgot to put the milk in, and I am stressed.
There’s just one more fair to look at; the Climate Change Show – this is about, well, I was hoping there would be a lot of stands and vendors of solutions that can help me reduce my carbon this or that.
Alas this is all about tax credits, and being corporate. It is one quarter of the size of the other two fairs and very quiet. I have a very nice conversation with a guy from Germany, who has flown in from Berlin that day – and he was here the year before, did you know? I didn’t know that. The tax credit company seems to be doing pretty well. When I checked their website, they have all just returned from a rather cool corporate vacation somewhere. I’m wondering if they went by plane.
Finally after just a few m minutes – I return to the HETT Show, which by comparison is humming but not suicidal. I have to interview someone and I have my microphone. I also have a reserved slot with the Organisers, as a place to sit in tranquility. But there is no tranquility. It is the one serious error, they should have put the Interview Room a long way away, upstairs, or somewhere.
In the end, myself and interviewee, disappear almost out of the building to the farthest Costa. We put our AirPods on, and we do a great interview.
When we finish and I save the recording, I turn to my colleague and say “I thought that went very well, don’t you?”.
“Sorry, what did you say?” He says.