Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Home Again

I've been in Atlanta all week for a conference on church facilities - how to build them better, how to staff them, how to select equipment for them, that kinda jazz. Since my daily work life consists of designing lighting systems for theatres, churches and other facilities that need performance lighting, it's a good conference for us. I think we generated some good business contacts out of the show, and the sessions that I and Peter (another systems goof from our Denver office) presented did a good job of positioning us as experts in the field and lent credibility to the stuff we were saying at our booth and our demo room.

For those of you who have gone to conferences for work, you understand the concept of the exhibit hall. It's where everybody who makes or sells things for the industry that the conference is about sets up displays and stands in front of them in monkey suits and plays the grip and grin game and hopes that they can remember the names of the guy they met at last year's conference. We do this a bunch, since we have a bunch of product lines that cross a bunch of different areas within the lighting world.

For this show, we did something a little different. In addition to our booth on the show floor, we set up a demo area in a couple of meeting rooms off the show floor. This gave us the chance to have customers come to our demo room if they had specific questions, or just wanted to take a few minutes' breather from the noise and pressure of the show floor. It also gave us a chance to make real connections with the customers, rather than just the "hello, goodbye" that you get on the exhibit hall floor where you're surrounded by other people (and competitors). There were also drinks, cookies, chips and salsa in the demo room, which was most of what we ate for three days, since it was busier than we expected and Peter and I missed a couple of lunches.

I think this is probably how we need to do trade shows from here on out - have a smaller presence on the show floor, and use our booth to qualify the leads and get them into the demo room. It made for a very good opportunity for people to engage in real conversation, and we had plenty of time to actually learn something about the customers that we were dealing with. Not to mention the concept that if someone took the time to walk all the way over to our demo room, they were a qualified lead already!

So that was cool, but I had expected this show to be less fruitful than it was, so I'm friggin' exhausted! Not to mention the fact that since it was just in Atlanta I drove rather than flying, so I had to drive home today. I would have left yesterday, especially since there was a concert in town last night that I wanted to see, but several of our other guys were getting on early flights, so I was stuck dealing with loading out our booth. A process that took twice as long as it should have when the morons from the exhibit company lost our empty crates for our booth and we had to wait around for over an hour after we were done with the rest of our strike waiting on our empties to arrive. I was less than thrilled.

Our Denver office sent out the cage with the chairs, lighting console, dimmers and a bunch of other gak, and when we were waiting for the cage to be brought from storage, one of the other guys said "so who's gonne pack up the leftover chips and salsa and have it trucked to Denver?" So I poured all of the stale tortilla chips into a bag, packed them carefully with peanuts, poured salsa into a leftover Diet Coke bottle, and wrote "Attn: Peter - PERSONAL" on the outside of the box.

Peter's on vacation for the next week, so the salsa should be sentient by the time he opens the box. This is what happens when you leave me in charge of load out.

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