Do Exhibitions Really Make the World go Round?
Estimated reading time: 4 min
In a way, a year in this line of business is somewhat similar to Groundhog Day. The wheel turns, but it is still a new year, same plans. Or at least the same “exhibition procedure as last year”. But not this year.
As always my 2020 started with The Arab Health in Dubai. Through the year the recurring shows and meetings then follow like pearls on a string. As such the RSNA in Chicago normally marks the end of the year for me as it catapults me into the Christmas spirit. But this year the normality ended after Arab Health. COVID-19 stopped the clock.
It has been a sort of unconscious force which pushed all of us to do our work in new ways. Finding new ways for the ends to meet. Normally I’ll fly out for the exhibition in Chicago Friday after Thanksgiving on the 14:00 KLM flight from Amsterdam (that’s virtually like right now as I’m sitting here typing!).
At 17:00 Chicago-time I would have checked in at the Intercontinental on Michigan Avenue and at 18:00 I would be sitting in the bar having my first meeting. Trying desperately to fight off the jetlag by staying awake to midnight. That procedure didn’t change much the past 13 years or so.
2020 really made me think about what I normally do and how I think this year will have changed things for good.
The oh so very crucial preparations…
For me, any exhibition always begins with a sense of excitement and the best of intentions. The Calendar is filled with an overwhelming heap of meetings, dinners and drinks.
From morning to late night there’s never a dull moment. I guess I believe(d?) the faster you run, the more successful a show? Frankly, that’s bollocks.
Picking the right flight
We also have to find the right flight. A flight which somehow gets us to the event at the very last moment but also leaves time for sightseeing (food and drink!). We also try to travel with the same airlines as we always do.
It needs to be just right to fight the jet lag – both going in and out. Also, comfort and those frequent flyer miles really mean something when you (normally) spend a LOT of time in the air. For us and all the other people going there. It’s really quite silly.
Don’t forget the hotel!
Wherever you go, you need a place to stay. Every year we talk about staying in a different place, but every year we end up staying at the same hotels. Why is that?
Maybe it is because it’s a nice hotel? But, there are many nice hotels.
Is it location, design, hospitality? Who knows? Or maybe part of the reason is that a hotel begins to feel a bit like a home away from home when you stay there enough times?
Plus, they do say that man is nothing but a creature of habit? Maybe we all are a bunch of lemmings?
Where to eat?
Being quite a foodie I always spend a great deal of time preparing where to eat. This is often planned and arranged months (years!) in advance. As Persius put it: The belly is the giver of genius. ☺
For sure, during a week in Chicago or Dubai, there’s always room for one (or perhaps two) new restaurants, but in reality, 90% are the same as previous years. How stupid is that? It seems that the only thing better than change is no change.
Reality and recommendations
I do love going to exhibitions. I do love meeting with friends, colleagues and competitors – it’s always great fun. And of course the excitement of meeting new potential clients.
But do you want to know what I miss the most from going to an exhibition? I miss going back home!
That’s the best feeling in the World. No great deal, no Michelin meal, no client reunion, no great pub revisited can match it. None of it gets even close.
Lesson learned in 2020: Looking ahead I’ll spend far less time on exhibitions than what I previously did.
A couple of exhibition recommendations
- Do FAR fewer expo meetings. Spend your meetings with NEW people and not the ones you anyway speak to on the phone every week.
- Spend a day to see the location. Do some sightseeing. This will rewind your batteries and clear your mind.
- Don’t just spend 15 min of your oh so busy schedule talking to a new client in the middle of The Grand Concourse of McCormick Place. Honestly, more often than not it’s BS and nothing will come from it. If you respect your (potential) client, then take the time. Go out for dinner, spend hours. And don’t just speak about boring diagnostic stuff, make it interesting.
- Get a hotel downtown. This will make it easier to accomplish both #2 and #3.
- Arab Health, Dubai: Best skyline view and best sushi outside Japan: TOMO at Raffles hotel.
- RSNA Sunday I always have a meaty lunch at Millers Pub at Adams/Wabash.
- At all costs avoid going to the Redhead Piano Bar in Chicago. Instead, go to Buddy Guys for blues.
- At ECR? Leave the show early, go to the lobby bar of Grand Hotel Wien and enjoy the piano player.
- At Medica? Wait, why do you even go to Medica?
Hope to see all of you soon!