I slept like a baby at Fespa. I mention this only because, for businessmen of a certain age, it is a point of professional pride to insist, loudly as they breakfast with colleagues, that they NEVER sleep in hotels. Presumably we’re supposed to believe they spent their wakeful hours devising a dynamic new strategy. They probably regard the concept of a work/life balance as the subversive brainchild of the department they invariably call Human Remains.
Not that exhibitions are especially conducive to any kind of work/life balance. The breakfast meeting, a lamentable, imported American fad, is now de rigueur. I usually spurn such invitations, but one persistent supplier always insists. The end result? Although we’re ostensibly discussing the white hot heat of technology, we end up contemplating each other’s table manners.
An exhibition hall is a parallel universe. At one trade show in Vegas, an American supplier’s CEO told me his staff had to leave their car keys at home for fear that, dazzled by adrenaline, whisky or fatigue, they’d gamble their wheels away. You feel something similar at shows like Fespa. There’s a quickening of the pulse – and, sometimes, a clouding of judgement. For me, exhibitions are for scouting and browsing. I seldom buy. The trade press were once full of the grinning visages of printers who’d signed on the dotted line, prompting me to wonder if there was an inverse relationship between the number of headlines a company generated and the viability of the business.
In times gone by, you trod the floor and pressed the flesh. Now there are seminars and lectures. I’ve enjoyed some, endured others. Yet, inspired by Albert Einstein’s principle that curiosity has its own reason for existing, I always attend a few.
After the seminars, demos, sales pitches, there is invariably a supplier jamboree. The old trick used to be to take you all on a boat so you couldn’t escape early. Feeling too young to join the river cruise set – even temporarily – I usually head to a half-decent restaurant.
All of which may explain why, returning to the hotel after midnight, I sleep brilliantly and feel no guilt about breakfasting alone.
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