This week I attended my first trade show -- as an attendee.
I've probably been to 40-50 tradeshows over the past 10 years, but it's always been as an exhibitor. I would show up before the expo hall opened, stand in my rectangular area, talk to people for 8 hours a day, then limp back to my hotel to go out for a late dinner, and finally come back to my room and settle down to regular work for 4 hours.
At ASTD, I'm on the other side and it's an interesting experience. I'm spending more time at the convention center and spending my days running from one session to another and trying to squeeze in a few minutes on the expo floor to look at products, 95% of which I have absolutely no use for.
The most interesting thing about the conference has been the scale. Sure, it's no CES. But then, there are major cities in this country smaller than CES.
When I showed up for the first session on Monday, there were already hundreds of people in line. Thousands of people ultimately showed up for that presentation. I'm not sure what the total attendance at the show is but it must be in the neighborhood of 10,000 people. And nearly all of them are involved in employee training somehow.
The conference has been worthwhile and I've seen a few interesting things on the show floor. But there is one thing I was looking for that I couldn't find.
I was looking for portable PA systems that my presenters can take on the road and set up in small training rooms or loud areas where we need to speak to people for hours on end. A microphone/speaker set up would make things easier. But I guess that is not something of interest to most trainers/presenters. Or if it is, it hasn't occurred to the manufacturers yet. There were actually very few vendors of physical "stuff." Most were selling curricula, consulting, content management, or learning management systems.
So basically they were selling ones and zeros or they were selling time.
I'm not getting any more rest than I do when I'm working a tradeshow, but at least I'm not standing still. And somehow or other I'm learning stuff along the way.