The Trade Show Rules Are Changing!

Depressed Intellectuals
6 min readNov 15, 2019


How does one get corporate sign-off to attend the modern industry Trade Show… and what experience should the attendee expect? (+2 points)

A Parody/Narrative White Paper — By Terry Jackson (Industry Veteran) — Nov 15, 2019, 12:00pm EST

The Problem: How does one get corporate sign-off to attend the modern industry Trade Show… and what experience should the attendee expect? What an interestingly boring topic. My favorite!

The Insight: First off, I am a multiple decade “industry veteran” (inside joke), and have been around the tradeshow block, let’s say… a few times! My insights contained herein should definitely be taken lightly (outside joke).

The Solution: In the spirit of the upcoming Tradeshow Season, I thought that I’d take a few minutes to share (or, ahem, TRADE) a few “insider tips” on what to expect… and how to successfully convince your Senior Management team to sign-off on your attendance.

I have also assigned a plus/negative point rating system to a few line items, to keep you on the straight and narrow. Please total your scores… type them up… then quickly toss them aside.

· Rule #1 — Don’t be a jerk. If you need an explanation on this… please do not attend the tradeshow. (That’s really the only rule, and It can be applied in nearly every scenario.)

· Rule #2 — Get your work done. Yes, it’s great to get away from the office for a few days — but this is still “work” related and should be treated as such. Professionally. (+6 points)

· Rule #3 — Bring your business cards. Should go without saying… but I know how you are.

· If you’re going to wear business shoes… double up on your business socks. (+1 point)

· Always wear a suit jacket and/or sports coat. Not at the same time. (-5 points)

· This disarms the masses and separates you from the casual tee and sneaker crowd, that are finally experiencing a little sunshine — after a month of wintry blasts. (+4 points)

· See all of the wonderfully new and fresh industry specific equipment. Yes… really!

· Re-introduction to manufacturer/distributor staff. Try to remember all of the names and former companies these fine folks worked for… two years ago. (success = +20 points)

· Re-connect with the industry in a neutral competition-friendly location… also known as the “cool and hip” bar that most folks gather at every year. Be neither “cool” nor “hip”.

· Touch base with former colleagues. “Hey! I’ve been meaning to reach out to you!”

· Touch base with future colleagues. “Hey! I’ve been meaning to reach out to you!”

· Hear all the industry rumors swirling around. “Yes, I did hear that the larger company bought the smaller company.” (-5 points)

· Spread a few new industry rumors (in snarky humor spirit). “Did you hear that the smaller company actually made an offer to acquire the larger company?!” (+11 points)

· Wine and Dine a few key clients… all within the discussed budget, of course! (That first budget… with the higher amount… that you proposed… and got a soft “maybe” on.)

· Get Wined and Dined by a few key service providers. “Could you squeeze in a few more clients at the Saturday night dinner? They really love your product.” (+15 points)

· Drink… the fancy stuff… on somebody’s corporate card. “What, exactly, does Macallan 18 taste like? This is great!” (+all the points)

· Drink… the not so fancy stuff… on your own dime… often in some remote location, away from the fray. “What, exactly, is the well bar whiskey in this joint?” (-3 sad points)

· Haggle over the best pricing on the newest and best gear! Be fair… but hold strong.

· End up splitting the difference, on a few small percentage points, for a 25% spend on the newest and best gear — and a 75% spend on the second-best gear (last year’s newest and best). Be fair… but hold strong… remember to thank the distribution reps for dinner last night… and for heaven’s sake, actually BUY something! (+8 points)

· Re-discover the long lost art of the bar-napkin purchase order. “Call me on Monday (but really Tuesday… please) and we will firm this all up… pending 100% sign-off from our company CEO, CFO, COO corporate Hydra (in the most endearing sense of the word). (OK, call me on Thursday… but really on Friday… please).” (+negotiable points)

· Collect eleventy-thousand business cards, information one-sheet slicks and full inventory catalogs on USB flash drives. Ideally, these flash drives are in the shape of some “thing”, other than a normal flash drive. (Do folks still call them flash drives?) (+ 3 points)

· Make sure your show badge gets scanned. This assists the Marketing and Brand Managers with tracking the foot traffic in their booths and also allows for proper follow-up with existing and potential clients, away from the (hopefully) busy show floor. This not only justifies the marketing budget expenditure — but also adds 20,000 annual work hours to the industry economy… and that’s just good business! (+2 points) (Whatever you do… do not get scanned.) (-1 point)

· Collect +100 small containers of breath mints… in cleverly branded tins (see flash drives in the shape of other “things”). Find the same amount of mint tins in your suitcase… before your next business trip. (-7 points)

· Pocket four to six tubes of lip moisturizer. (Lose all of the lip moisturizer tubes — before leaving town)

· Secure one or two “cool” or “hip” gadgets for the teenager back home… and patiently wait for the eye-roll, from said teenager, upon later presentation. (+2 points)

· Make one or two quick calls home to check in on the family, at odd hours. Aim for dinner time and/or the most important dramatic moment of the movie they are watching. (+13 points)

· Check in with the office staff… and promise them that they will be able to attend the show… next time… pending 100% sign-off from the company CEO, CFO, COO corporate Hydra (in the most endearing sense of the word). (OK, touch base with me next Thursday… but really next Friday… please). (-0 points… because they REALLY wanted to attend the tradeshow… THIS year!)

· Find your branded, laser-engraved, company-logo’d name tag… that you should have been wearing the whole time… as you pack your bag and dash off to the airport.

· It is now OK to wear BOTH your suit jacket and/or sports coat at the same time… because it’s going to be cold when you land back home… and you do not have room in your luggage. (+3 points)

· Swing by the bar to pick up your liver… that you left there the night before.

· Write up a quick summary of the trip for the team back home and make a calendar appointment to share this important information with the team on the following Monday morning. (+23 points)

· Completely forget to send the summary (- 25 points)

In Summation: Seriously, and here is the selling point pay-off, we all must realize that the true goal of the modern trade show attendee is to connect with the industry at large… to “TRADE” one’s knowledge for others, through business dealings, meetings, casual meetups and chance encounters. These shows foster a much-needed touch point in today’s digital world, where nuance has largely been lost.

Upon Reflection: Yes, the trade-show business is all about the numbers these days (how to get the most, for the least) — and rightfully so, but it should also be about building up industry comradery, in the spirit of friendship, business and community within a group, in other words, “We are all in this together” — so be respectful and be nice (+1,000 points)

And if you can’t be respectful and/or nice… please see Rule #1.

Find me on the show floor… let’s grab an early morning cup of coffee! (but really… not too early)

#Tradeshow #whitepaper #corporate #parody



Depressed Intellectuals

Flaneur. Convergence of art, politics, science, fashion, fitness and food… as seen through the eyes of a, self proclaimed, depressed intellectual.