The girl struggled with the weight from the contents of her cardboard box. Men and women waited impatiently for her to empty the contents. Like vultures greedily recognising their prey, they snatched the glossy magazines from her tired hands, not considering for one moment that as human beings it would be polite and decent to say thank you. Or at the very least look thankful.
I smiled at her in sympathy. I watched her compose herself, hastily stack the remainder of the magazines in the distribution bin, and then rush away to start the procedure all over again.
I was that girl once. At my previous place of employment I travelled to a publishing conference in Cannes on four separate occasions, followed by Barcelona and Singapore.
Sounds glamorous? It wasn’t really.
Rising at six am every morning and then waiting in the cold brisk morning air for deliveries to arrive. Feeling your stress levels erupt when problems occurred such as lost delivery vans, printing errors, absent contracted employees, and angry publishers. A vast amount of conference floor needed to be covered, dishing out orders and obeying orders in equal quantities. Erecting stands, distribution bins, and carrying heavy boxes which literally made your arms shake and your hands and feet blister in the process.
Oh I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it was a tiny teeny bit exciting at first.
The very first conference brought a sense of the unknown and a welcome change from the office. A team who bonded over glasses of wine at the airport, during the flight, in our hotel lounge, and at a fancy restaurant. We sampled foreign food courtesy of the company, and table danced at a friendly looking bar. And then we realised how shocking the next day felt, and perhaps we needed to calm ourselves and stop acting like children without our parent’s supervision, indulging in frivolous forbidden activities.
Posh black tie award parties and celebrating on private yachts along the French Riviera were enjoyed during ‘the good old days’ of the first conference, when the company and our department were in the prime of expensive advertising accomplishments. Okay this chapter was rather glamorous and fun, and always with an amusing story attached regarding an amorous client locked in a store cupboard, drunken stupid arguments with peers, and a hospital visit with a suspected broken finger.
But we painfully succumbed to the consequences of our actions and the important and exhausting duties we were expected to perform.
So after this first year it became business as usual. We had deliveries to meet, clients to smile at, conversations to hold, deals to be made, and many, many cardboard boxes to be emptied.
Which is why I recently looked at the mentioned girl at the beginning of my post in sympathy. I would like to say I speak from experience when I watched her anxiety, and her eager to please anxious face and tired hands. And the greedy vultures snatching her offerings.
At the Publishing Expo conference in February 2012, admittedly not in Cannes, Barcelona or Singapore, but at Earls Court, London, I felt an unusual and satisfying conference feeling.
It felt good to finally be the visitor and not the exhibitor.
Oh yes it was funny and a tad exciting at the beginning of my exhibiting story. But who needs uncomfortable wake up calls, blisters and difficult clients?
Not me. In February 2012 I was relaxed and able to walk around at my own leisure, eagerly listening to seminars praising print and paper, and smiling at the memories of the conference mishaps and shenanigans from a time which feels slightly alien now, but at the same time still quite amusing and real.
Visitor or exhibitor? I know which one I prefer.