Andi Best Freelance Designer

The Business Show 2018


  • Published 27-06-2018
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The Business Show 2018
In the middle of May this year I attended The Business Show 2018 at the ExCel centre, London, owing to having succumbed to the trade show bug. It hasn't yet consumed me entirely but it has had a considerable nibble. In 2015 I was invited to demonstrate the 3Doodler for I Fucking Love Science at the Brand Licensing Europe show at Olympia and in 2013 I attended CES in Las Vegas as a brand ambassador illustrating for Samsung. Both of these roles introduced me to the world of corporate exhibitionism but only from the exhibitor side - it was high time I experienced what it might be like to be a visitor at such an event. When I learnt of the upcoming Business Show (and more crucially, it's free entry for guests) I cleared my work schedule for the day and hopped on the next DLR.
I decided that my objective for the Show would be to network until I was hoarse, and make as many new contacts for the potential exchange of work as possible - a tricky target to hit considering everyone, exhibitors and visitors alike, were in attendance with precisely the same agenda. But unlike the tech focus of CES and the intellectual property focus of the Brand Licensing Show, TBS2018 concerned itself with the all-encompassing generics of 'business' which was a much more level playing field for me to work with.
Taking stock of my arsenal (one million business cards, one cup of tea and one chocolate croissant) I had my lanyard scanned and I entered the show. I was ready!
The Business Show 2018
Actually, I was not ready. Within seconds I was collared by a representative of the Show's official sponsor who drew me into his stand and chewed my ear off for five minutes in hope that I might enlist for a credit card. I declined politely and incessantly, but not before handing over a plethora of personal contact data that in the wake of my being caught off guard by the rep, I forgot to fake. However I did bag a Molskine notebook from the stand, my first plunder of trade show loot for the day.
Regaining composure I roamed the avenues, tactically casting my eyes at anything that wasn't human else I be accosted for another pitch, and assessed the lay of the land over a couple of laps. It was definitely the smallest trade show I'd attended which made it fairly simple to learn where the key areas of my interest should be invested. Primary targets were stands offering services in my field; digital agencies and print houses. By presenting myself as a competent, knowledgeable freelancer able to lighten each of these company's respective creative workloads I reasoned I'd stand a greater chance of being heard than, say, by walking up to the stand of a business energy supplier and shooting down their patter whilst listing everything wrong with their website. I found this tact to garner one of only two responses. If the company was fairly confident in its market position they would welcome me warmly, walk me through their portfolios, entertain mine and we would part ways with each other's business cards primed for follow up. If the company was especially panicked about its position, their stand full of tumbleweeds and their services rendered as mere text and goofy illustration plastered across their 3m2 backdrops, they tended to be immensely cagey and regarded my prospect of working with them with the same disdain as deciding which they would rather I forcibly insert into them; my hot beverage or my business cards.
Generally, there was a lot of screaming at the Show, some metaphorical and some actual. Virtually everyone screamed about GDPR, using the ambiguity of what it might entail to lure visitors into their stands, keynote talks and workshops, hoping that the mystery would be cleared up once and for all. I'm not sure that it was because following the Show my inbox was alight with unsolicited comms about my fleeting presence at significant interest in the very companies professing to dispel it. One aspect of GDPR's formidable encroachment at the Show did make me chuckle though; the classic drop-your-business-card-in-the-glass-dish-and-you-may-win-a-prize-and-subsequently-get-spammed mechanism employed by almost every stand had morphed into drop-your-business-card-in-the-glass-dish-and-you-may-win-a-prize-and-subsequently-get-spammed-but-your-entry-is-only-valid-if-you-complete-the-accompanying-consent-form.
In terms of actual screaming, there were pockets of space around the Show floor littered with chairs pointing at stages upon which successful businessmen would refuse to stand, preferring instead to bound up and down the rows of dough-eyed wannabe entrepreneurs and bellow gems of insight into their faces. "I said, 'No, double it' and that was that" roared one. "That was 10 years ago and look at me now" exclaimed another. Ear-splitting semi-comprehensible motivational yelping certainly wasn't for me so I would double-back at these areas and seek out other potential exploits for networking, such as The Business Connection Wall. The Show brochure described this area as a space where companies could announce the particular services and tools they sought to utilise and respective businesses could come forward to fulfil those requirements - a regulated Demand meets Supply dialogue. In reality it was a roped-off blackhole of desperation; a literal black wall against which men and women were feverishly clambering over one another to affix their business cards to the ever-deteriorating A4 sheets of dwindling opportunity. I looked on from the boundary and likened the scene to that of a disaster movie where families hopelessly stapled photos of their missing loved ones to high street ad boards hoping that something, anything, might happen.
The Business Show 2018
There was also a speed networking area nearby, which again sounded fantastic on paper, but was really just an undersized pen where copious business folk were stuffed and made allowed to speak only with those whose knees were pressed tightly against their own. Needless to say I didn't dive into that activity either.
After orbiting the avenues for maybe a 10th time, I reasoned that I'd seen all I came to see (the Show was a lot smaller than I had expected) and it was time to head back to the office to salvage some of the working day.
From a networking perspective the Show was definitely worth attending. Several potential clients and leads have since been in touch to express interest in collaborating with me on creative projects which is fantastic. So far a print house with little in-house web resource has proposed I take on a site redesign job with them, and an investment firm working on a charitable side project was impressed with my recent charity marketing and design work and wanted to know more about my services. Not at all bad for a morning away from my desk.
But what of the bug? Has it shrivelled into a dry husk and disengaged it's mandibles from my flesh? Hardly. It's as infectious and pulsating as ever, and established firm residence in the exhibitor camp. As interesting as it was to be a visitor at the Show I've come away feeling it's significantly more rewarding to be the one behind the podium, marketing the benefits of services to intrigued parties. It is therefore now my mission to raise the necessary funds to get me stationed at a future expo with a stand of my own that people cannot ignore.
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