Saturday, April 12, 2003


For me, the last three weeks have been dominated by exhibitions, putting stands up, taking them down, standing staring blankly trying not to look bored. Being an exhibitor is a rotten job because you spend three days trying to convince yourself that this is all worthwhile, when all your doing is exposing yourself to the maddest people on earth.

First up are the people wearing slightly obscured badges, all you can read is that they’re job title says “…ing Di…” and you hope beyond hope that this means they are Managing Director. Eventually they reveal themselves to be a “Catering Dining Room Assistant”. They turn up on the first day and are queuing outside before the doors are open. Their boss has sent them to the exhibition because it’s a day out and cheaper than training and a pay rise. Yet despite this rare freedom, they fear they will be found out if they saunter in at lunchtime having spent the morning on Oxford Street. They look around listen intently at the to what your telling them, give positive comments like “That would be good in our company” then when you ask if they want to set up a meeting they cackle wildly, turn red and say “Ooh my boss wouldn’t like that” and shuffle off. But not before they take one of each piece of promotional literature you have. They wear beige anoraks and are laden down with promotional plastic bags. You later see them having a coffee and a flapjack fretting they won’t be allowed to claim it on expenses.

If you let your guard down you’ll find yourself turning and walking into a man invading your personal space by standing two inches from you. He will have a jet-black perm with silver grey sideburns. He is a magician/hypnotherapist/dolphin trainer who specialises in motivational and/or quit smoking techniques. He is about to sell to you. On your space, which you have spent in excess of £7000 to construct he spends twenty minutes convincing you he will help you give up smoking in seven days. Tell him you don’t smoke and he will insist he can help you start smoking in seven days, “or your money back”. He will always have a business card that says Flat 9a, Edgeware Road, which it will be above Carphonewarehouse.

Occasionally somebody apparently credible will come and talk to you. Sometimes they will reach into their pocket and before you know it you have a business card imbedded in your forehead. “Send me something to that” they say before disappearing off to maim someone else. Either that, or they will stop and ask what your business is about. “Well…” you say before they interject and spend an hour telling you that they’re doing something very ordinary “I’m recently redundant, er, an independent consultant who is specialising in helping people eat carrots” you nod “But I’m doing it a bit differently to most people” at this point your inner ear caves in and you can’t hear anything apart from “Revolutionary technique from America” and “Using computer simulations online”. All the while over his shoulder you can see the Bill Gates perusing your literature saying to his handmaiden “If I can talk to this guy I’m going to buy this for every single one of my employees and all my wives.”

At the end of long and busy show your mind turns to going home, and hey presto! the mad people turn up. Mostly they collect leaflets that they will sleep in. Others will draw you into a conversation, which is apparently making sense, until you realise they have teeth made of pegs, eyes that are different colours and ears growing upside down. Then the show closes and you cut them off mid sentence and turn and rip your stand down in a frenzy.

When you’ve finished and everything is packed up, you realise they are still standing there waiting for you to finish. Either that or you accidentally pack them up and find them back at the office running your IT system.


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