Rhianna Shaw | Sep 23, 2011
Having attended numerous career fairs over the years, I’ve snagged a fair few freebies in my time. And there’s no denying that some of them have been pretty nice, such as a poker set with chips and playing cards (thank you Sigma Capital Group). But the goodies flaunted at the exhibitor stations at ad:tech London took things to a whole new level. This was the work of one afternoon:
Now although we call them freebies, I’d like to suggest that that’s not entirely true. For the most part you have to make nice with the exhibitor for it to be acceptable to nab their giveaway. Of course, if you so choose, you can be that fraud who swipes a pen without so much as a howdy doody, but there are two problems with that: firstly, everybody hates you, and secondly (and more importantly) you can never get the good stuff that way. The good stuff is stashed in the recesses of the inner sanctums of the stall, blocked by the counter, with three representatives stood guard ready to part with it out only if you sign a contract there and then. Which, frankly, I think is just plain mean. Don’t lure us over with your shiny red umbrellas and funky head massagers if you’re not going to give them to us for anything less than our souls.
And that’s another thing: it should be compulsory for an exhibitor to offer you the swag once you have done your time. Not just nod slightly condescendingly when you reach for it with a mildly apologetic, lightly questioning gaze on your face. Because no matter how sincere you are, not matter how genuinely interested you may be, if at the end of your little chat you (legitimately) reach for that stress ball the fact of the matter is you still feel like a fraud. And actually, you now feel like far more of a fraud than had you simply approached them and said ‘ooh, could I grab a one of those?’ Even if you are legitimately interested in their company, by reaching for that ‘freebie’ at the end of your talk it always reduces the last ten minutes of intellectual conversation to a scummy piece of smooth-talking driven by a whopping great ulterior motive.
Personally, I generally choose the ‘I’m semi-interested in what you have to say but I’m not going to hide the fact that I’m dying to get a hold of one of those mini basketball hoops (complete with mini basketball)’ approach. And yes, I’ve definitely had some indignant, not to mention really quite offended looks when I’ve taken (what I consider) my dues. But the fact is, you put that stuff out like bird feed, so don’t look so injured when we come pecking.
But enough bitching. To return to my original point (before my rant took on a life of its own), some of the ad:tech London exhibition floor went above and beyond the chocoloates, memory sticks, and never ending supply of pens, and offered up an experience instead. Have a look at some of the stuff I got up to over the past two days:
I snowboarded against Olympic snowboarder Zoë Gillings. I lost, but I’m not taking it too hard. Especially because it was only on Xbox, and I’m sure that had we been on real boards I’ve had trounced her. Yeah right. But actually my friend did, and he was the only one! And he got a brand new Xbox for his efforts.
A magician. He completed a Rubik’s cube, blindfolded, in 1 minute and 15 seconds. And at the end of it guessed the word my friend had picked randomly out of a book at the start!
I had my feet eaten by fish. And let me tell you, it tickled like hell. But at the end of it, they were lovely and soft. For those of you that don’t know, they are (appropriately) named doctor fish, and they eat only dead skin. And all though it’s really weird at first, you get do get used to the sensation, and it’s totally worth it in the end.
Free alcohol. Bottles of beer, glasses of champagne, and at more than one place, extensive plates of nibbles. But that was nothing compared to this:
Yes, that is a cocktail bar, complete with sexy female deejay, a drinks menu, and girls clad in skimpy chopped up football shirts, booty shorts, and six-inch stilettos. One of the guys at Orville Media is probably still pinching himself, unable to believe that his boss actually authorised his plea for free booze and hot babes.
Magic, spa treatments, free booze… this was no ordinary conference. Or maybe it was? I’m fairly new to this conference stuff. But let me tell you, if they’re all like this one, I’m going to acquaint myself pretty damn fast!
About the Author: Rhianna Shaw, Conference Hound’s UK correspondent is a 2011 graduate of Brown University with a B.A. in Literary Arts and a course focus on Business. At Brown, Rhianna was the Public Relations and Event Coordinator for the Brown Class Board, responsible for organizing class and campus-wide events. She spent her final semester developing an online start-up with a small team of her Brown classmates. Rhianna hails from sunny England, where she has returned to work in the event industry in London. She has spent a large portion of her life dedicated to music as a member of several bands and orchestras and she also enjoys acting and playing competitive sports!