From Where I Sit – Human Behaviour

Some people are funny. I count myself in that group. I just finished working a shift in a booth at the Summer Travel Show sponsored by the Edmonton Journal. The morning was especially busy; I’m sure the free admission and free parking helped. Three of us worked the double-sized booth, and we were kept hopping.

Seniors, families with babies, and kids were there. So were individuals who wanted to take back ideas for day trips and bus excursions for their respective groups. I exchanged contact information with a couple of people and hope it translates into bus groups for the Babas and Borshch Ukrainian Festival.

The booth with helium-filled Mylar balloons of Pooh, Mickey, and Minnie was a kid magnet. The bouncy castle rocked. Lots of exhibitors provided empty recyclable bags to hold all the swag.

And That’s the funny part. Some people are so sly in how they grab up all that is available. Instead of taking one pad of paper, they snatch four. They absolutely must take an extra keychain, because their neighbour collects them. If one tattoo is good, five or six must be better. They’ll take candy, pens, bumper stickers, magnets, maps, and more.

As an exhibitor, you understand That’s why the stuff is there: to provide a tangible and hopefully useful reminder of the message You’re trying to convey. You kind of hope they have the good manners to ask some questions, listen to the answers, and engage in dialogue. You hope they put the giveaways to good use or pass them onto someone who will. You hope they don’t abuse your generosity.

When I’m the visitor to a trade show, I try to be polite, unselfish, and honest with myself as to whether I really need or want another free item. Personally, though, I do love a short tape measure, a package of Band-Aids, or a tin of mints.

Some people will shamelessly enter every single free draw. Several times. Oh, that one’s for my husband/wife. From the exhibitor perspective, a properly designed and fully completed entry form is like gold; it becomes a new list of prospects to cold call or reach out to and touch through email. It’s also a good way to measure the traffic to the booth. When our 300 entry forms were gone, it was time to improvise and provide blanks slips of paper.

At the end of the day, exhibitors will assess whether they gave more or less than what they hope to gain from the publicity. This lesson in human behaviour is not free, from where I sit.

Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.