Tricks of the Tradeshow
Melissa Bean Sterzick
Many professionals find themselves attending a tradeshow at some point in their careers. This month, quite a few parking industry types will gather for the Parking Industry Exhibition, or PIE, sponsored by Parking Today.
It’s a little exciting to be asked or given permission to travel for work. Booking the flight gives you that “stick it to the man” feeling you get when your employer pays for something you usually have to buy yourself – it’s the same with taxis, meals, hotel rooms, and post-it notes.
It’s tempting to treat the whole thing like an all-expenses-paid vacation, but you know you need to justify the outlay by attending classes and lectures, and touring the exhibits.
Whether you increase your knowledge and understanding of your industry or just waste a few days not paying attention to any of the speakers is up to you, but be as productive as possible so your conscience doesn’t hound you all week.
Also, consider a list of survival techniques I’ve gathered from my circle of colleagues and friends:
1. Prepare for lines. They might be long, they might be short, but there will be lines. There will be lines for credentials, for room keys, for meals, for taxis and for exhibit-area consultations. Manage your time accordingly. Download Angry Birds right now.
2. Wear comfortable shoes. Concrete floors start out hard and get harder as the day passes. Loiter in the fancy booths that have plush carpeting.
3. Don’t waste time on gimmicks. There’s always a booth with a robot dog or a scantily-clad female “hostess.” Neither of these things has anything to do with your business. They’re just there to attract your attention, but you’re an adult, and you know when you’re being manipulated.
4. Exercise restraint when it comes to free stuff (except for food; see No. 5). Don’t take every free thing set out on a table (and don’t assume everything set out on a table is free). Your kids don’t need five Frisbees. Whatever swag you grab, you’re going to have to carry around all day, fit into your suitcase at the end of the show, and donate to Goodwill when you get home. So, choose carefully.
5. Follow the free food. The tradeshow organizers and exhibitors want you to enjoy yourself, stay hydrated and eat well. If you have a good experience, you will come back, so they are sure to offer perks such as free food and drinks. Don’t embarrass yourself, but dig in.
6. Get outside for a few minutes every day. Even if the weather is horrible, you need a little fresh air so your lungs and skin don’t dry up completely.
7. Choose classes and lectures ahead of time. Waiting until the last minute is the best way to end up standing in the hall scratching your head.
8. Charge your phone every night. Buy a portable charger if you think you might need it.
9. Find yourself a nook. If possible, locate a quiet place to sit and eat a snack or read a brochure. If you can’t be relied on to accomplish No. 8, make it a spot with an unguarded outlet.
10. Wash your hands often. It’s a germ-fest out there, and you don’t want to go home with measles.
11. It seems obvious, but remember your business cards.
12. If there’s someone at home waiting for you to call, do it. Excuses like “It was too hectic” and “My cell coverage was bad” or “My battery died” (see No. 8) are totally lame.
13. Find Parking Today’s publisher, John Van Horn, and shoot the breeze. He’s a heck-of-a guy, and I’m not just saying that because I’m on his payroll.
14. Have fun. But not too much fun.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is Parking Today’s proofreader, occasional writer and amateur parker. She can be reached at