Earl’s Court exhibition centre is one of those places I must have walked past or driven past or gone past in the bus a hundred times. Not once did it cross my mind that I would ever go in, let alone wearing a badge saying ‘Exhibitor’.
Like most new things, there was a whole new language to master. Even the simplest thing (such as, embarrassingly, the difference between a trade show and a consumer show), was an eye-opener. But the real revelation was seeing the huge industry which exists around these shows.
Here’s the basics of how it works: you pay a (usually exorbitant) fixed sum of money to rent a tiny square of to-be-carpeted space on the floor of a giant hall. For first timers, this usually means the minimum rentable area, which is 2 metres by 2 metres – the definition of a space just too small to swing a cat. First timers assume that said exorbitant sum covers everything you will need in this tiny handkerchief of space, but how wrong they (we) are. The sum does not include, say, a table to put your things on, a light to show people your things, a fridge to keep your things cool or a sink to wash them up. It does not even include a chair, a shelf or a leaning post for when you’re too tired to stand. By the time you’ve got all that little lot, you need to sell your personal lifetime best in order even to break even at the show.
Luckily it’s all worth it because you get to meet your customers face to face and remember what all this is about.