Today I’m going to the Ski and Snowboard Show (19-23 October), at its new home at Earls Court. I love the show – checking out the gear, dreaming of holidays all over the place, having a gluhwein, mingling with hundreds of other ski fanatics – but I fell briefly out of love with it 12 years ago when I was forming a tour operator, More Than Skiing (see ‘About’ on this blog), with my sister.
We’d decided that the best way to promote our fledgling company, which ran holidays to Obergurgl, would be to have a stand at the show, which was then at Olympia.We lived in nearby Chiswick, so it was convenient, and we hoped it would be fun as well as good for business.
In those days it was 10 days long, spanning two weekends, and it ran well into the evening on weekdays. We set up our (rather ‘busy’ and home-made, I see now, but at least quite original) stand with a good deal of excitement.
The first day or two passed swiftly as we enthusiastically chatted to passers-by and handed out hundreds of home-made brochures (the ski show was our big spend: we did the rest of our set-up on a shoestring). We roped in a few mates to man the stand with us, and made friends with the neighbouring stands – various Canadian resorts, I recall.
By about Tuesday, though, after a couple of quiet-ish days, we lost a bit of impetus. It was disheartening when punters wandered past our stand looking straight through us and ignoring our smiling entreaties to holiday with us. And after thrusting brochures into thousands of hands and then spotting them discarded in bins or on the floor, we started counting the hours until it was over…
We did pick up a handful of firm bookings, and the dirndls got a good outing. But as regular exhibitors will know, after a while the days go slowly and it can be a discouraging business – especially if, like me, you’re not a natural salesman.
I’m happy to be ‘on the other side’ now, but I wish luck and patience to everyone who is spending the full five days there manning a stand.
And what our stint there in 1999 does mean is that I have become a sucker for stopping at almost every stand to chat to its inhabitants, and I end up lugging a sackful of brochures and leaflets home. More recently, though, this habit has become a bonus: as I’m always on the lookout for fresh ideas for ski articles, the chit-chat and paper mountain are pretty much compulsory.
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