Ah, the trade show. That ever-present feature on the global calendar of industry events. The concentration of all forces singularly focused on one thing: selling stuff.
As I’m based in Hong Kong, I can’t help but be kept in the loop on all things trade show related. This is a city with trade show mania; they just keep on rolling in.
If it’s not an exhibition of the latest in coffin design, it’s a show on building and decoration materials, or medical devices and home textiles.
But with such a magnificent expo centre right in town and a potential 1.3 billion customers a stone’s throw away, who could blame the global trade big-wigs for coming here?
This is the place to be if you want to hawk your wares. This is where the big money is made – Asia’s trade fairs generated €2.7 billion in 2010. And it’s only set to grow. Across the region, millions of sq m of floor space are now reserved for trade shows.
I both love and despise them. I despise them because of the shuffling of thousands of feet and bumping into people and the glaring strip lighting and the stuffy air.
But I love them because it’s all there, right in front of you. The books you never thought existed, the bathroom appliances you never knew you needed, the outdoor furniture you really want to get your hands on despite not having a garden.
You’ve got to give the envoys credit for standing there for hours on end talking up their stuff. And going about it with such passion that you are drawn in, seduced, sold.
But even without the salesman talk, the trade shows are extremely useful. It’s one thing looking at specs for your new jet. But going to see that very specific aircraft at a show is entirely different.
You not only get an emotional reaction to it, you can touch it, sit in it, pretend you’re flying it. Where else but at a trade show do you get the chance to be a pilot for a few minutes?
And though I curse myself for having picked up too many branded tote bags, heavy with brochures and leaflets about the latest in cruise missile technology, I simply can’t stay away from it all.
So when the next tradeshow comes around – be it on silver products, gifts or jewellery – no doubt, I’ll be there.