Trade Shows and Trading Places
Imagine, if you will, going to a circus. Not just any circus, but the largest one you've ever seen. The scent of rich, buttery popcorn fills your nose as you hear elephants trumpeting somewhere in the distance. As you try and pinpoint the sound, a car filled with 20 clowns drives by, while in the other direction an acrobat stands on top of a lion. On top of a bear. On top of a horse. Spotlights and flashing neon are everywhere. Smoke from a fog machine pours from a mysterious tent, and in the center a ringmaster barks over the crowd, directing its attention in 10 ways at once. There are so many rides and games and attractions that you're dizzy trying to decide which to visit first.
Now imagine someone hands you a notebook and says "write down everything." Welcome to the life of a trade show journalist.
Every year at The PPAI Expo I feel I miss something, and this year the feeling was worse than most. While I'm always working (i.e., looking at cool stuff) and planning for future stories (i.e., talking to cool people) at shows, this was my first year producing live coverage for PromoMarketing.com, and since I spent half the time writing I didn't get to see nearly as much as I would have liked.
The privilege of finding all the latest fun stuff goes to our new production editor, Colleen McKenna. She and I are doing a little Murphy/Aykroyd shuffle (without all the homelessness) as she takes over responsibility on the magazine while I focus my energies on the website. As the newest member of the Promo Marketing staff, she also was in the unique position of first-time trade show attendee. She'll be posting shortly with her perspectives as a PPAI novice. So stop by her blog, say hi, and remember what it was like to not know how your feet would feel after a trade show.
While I wasn't able to see all the booths I would have liked, I was able to speak with a number of distributors and suppliers about the trade show and also about their expectations for 2011, and I want to thank all of them for their help and their perspectives. They gave great advice and had some interesting predictions you should check out.
Lastly, I need to thank the most important people at the trade show, those people without whom I'd never make it through all three days: the people who gave me chocolate. So, a big thank-you to Lauren Fox at Fresh Beginnings, Joelle Schillinger at Maple Ridge Farms David Miller at Chocolate Inn. Without those massive doses of sugar, I don't know how I would have survived.