Confessions of a Public-Sector Trade-Show Rookie
Trade shows are a business necessity, especially in the private sector. It’s a great way of meeting your customers or business partners face-to-face. But from my experience, trade shows have been mundane, stressful, and filled with unoriginal sales-pitches -- as if I were on the set of an infomercial, “Does your mop do this?” So, when I was told that part of my duties with LAS was to attend trade shows…all that came to mind was…well, nothing came to mind as it was fogged by a big, black cloud of dread.
ROMA – Rural Ontario Municipal Association
I was new to LAS and new to the public sector. My first trade show took place at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel for ROMA. Note to self for the next conference: Wear comfortable shoes. Besides my aching feet, I was pleasantly surprised. My job for this event was to learn from my colleagues so all I had to do was watch and listen. I noticed they didn’t have the infomercial-pasted grin. These were genuine smiles! However, I was not yet ready to give up my skepticism.
Fast forward to May: I was off to Hastings County Day. I entertained myself with my Jane Eyre audio book for the quasi three-hour drive to Hastings County. Either it was the story that filled my imagination with the beautiful English countryside, or it was the peaceful scenery of this quaint little piece of Ontario. Either way, a bit of sunshine cleared up some of my black cloud.
I learned how to disassemble the LAS booth at ROMA, but at Hastings I had to figure out how to piece it together on my own. Forty-five minutes! I promised I would eventually beat my personal record.
Hastings County Day verdict? Friendly delegates who sincerely wanted to learn more about how they could help their municipalities; friendly exhibitors who wanted to deliver services to assist municipalities in reaching their goals. That’s my kind of place. When was the next event? Bring it on!
MISA – Municipal Information Systems Association
Only one week later I was travelling to Niagara Falls for MISA, where I was to promote AMO’s Digital Toolkit and the Risk Management Symposium. This event had a similar set-up to Hastings County Day where the forum occupied the middle of the trade show floor. I was able to listen to interesting topics while waiting for the delegates to break and visit the exhibitors.
David Chilton was one of the speakers. He later gave away free copies of his book, “The Wealthy Barber Returns”, and offered to sign them. He made small talk with each person, but when it was my turn to meet him, I developed tongue-tied disease. I would like to redeem myself, Mr. Chilton. I wanted to say, “Dr. Ogden and Murdoch live in the Royal York Hotel.” Long story. He would understand the reference. But I digress.
While at MISA I learned about the vast roles I.T. departments play in the public sector. I realized then that I.T. is made up of much more than computer software updates and password resets. These departments can help keep their municipality safe and secure from internal and external cyber threats.
AMCTO – Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasures of Ontario
In June I was off to Muskoka for AMCTO. By this time I was a LAS-booth engineer, beating my record -- only twenty minutes to assemble the display.
At this conference, I was to promote our commodities programs -- electricity and natural gas.
There was that infomercial nagging in the back of my mind, “Does your utility offer this?” But I learned that clerk/treasurers don’t bite. All I had to do was to explain the programs and follow up if they had interest in learning more, so the pressure to sell did not exist.
AMO – Associations of Municipalities of Ontario
Then the mother of all events had arrived: AMO. From January I had been hearing about the AMO event, so my expectations were quite high and I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed. Unlike the other shows, where my only job was to operate the trade booth (and Tweet about it), at AMO I was part of the event; I had to assist where I was needed. Who needs the gym when you have AMO? I’m sure I accumulated more than 10,000 steps per day.
Besides some technical glitches, the event went smoothly. What would I have done differently? I would have made our booth more accessible to the delegates. We were too far back from the traffic, which made it seem like our area was a lounge.
MFOA – Municipal Finance Officers’ Association of Ontario
And finally, the last conference of the year. According to the Law of Attraction, what you want wants you. So was it a coincidence that MFOA was held at the Deerhurst Resort, or was it the universe conspiring to get me back to Muskoka? It was only September, but the leaves were already changing colours, anticipating an early arrival for autumn.
The event was very successful in that I was able to meet many familiar names with whom I have been in contact only via email. That was the good news.
The bad news…Municipal World asked my colleague Wardah and I if we’d be interested in doing an on-camera interview about LAS and ONE Investment’s services. Of all days! I was a poster child of what not to look like before a video interview. Another note to self: Come with a beauty team who can whip my hair into frizz-be-gone submission, and make my skin glow and eyes pop.
Overall, my first year of public sector trade shows was positive and I’m looking forward to next year’s adventures. Ontario has such beautiful regions and I’m lucky this job allows me the privilege to visit them, while giving me the opportunity to speak with our customers face-to-face. Black cloud? What black cloud? Piece of cake.
By Fernanda Lazzaro, Customer Service Representative