Trade shows are kind of like the circus, only without the sawdust. And the hotdogs cost a whole lot more because the fast-food vendors know there is nowhere else you can go.
But it’s a Big Top experience with bright lights and lots of glitter, as you juggle your schedule, walk the high-wire of launching a new product, and honk your own horn like a seal on a stool. And you also have to deal with a few clowns along the way.
Speaking of which, I tried to imagine myself wearing a pair of their goofy, oversized shoes, this week, while at the Christian bookstore world’s annual business convention in Atlanta. Two related reasons: it made me concentrate on where I was, and it forced me to walk a bit more slowly.
See, I can easily get caught up in the hype of it all. There’s something about being in the fishbowl of a trade event that can ramp you up. Everyone’s wanting to sell something, or buy something, or get something for free. It’s like a regular working week on steroids. The danger is that you can end up viewing everyone as an appointment rather than an individual.
I still remember an occasion at the event, some years back, when I arrived for a scheduled interview with a leading Christian singer known for his passionate songs about striving to be like Jesus. He greeted me with: “So, you are my three o’clock?” I wonder if Jesus had the woman at the well inked in his Daytimer as “Samaritan Nooner.”
Thankfully that’s more the exception than the rule. Mostly I have always been greeted with great kindness, and not only because people usually want to be your friend when you’re wearing a Press pass—unless you have written something they don’t like, in which case it serves more as a bull’s-eye.
Through the years, people there have stopped to inquire how things are going, or offer some personal words of encouragement when we passed on the convention floor that have been life-giving. And it’s been more than the faux interest of business chit-chat. I don’t think there are (m)any other business conventions where attendees will stop to pray with someone in one of the main exhibit aisles.
So, having benefited in the past from others’ gift of their true attention in the midst of many distractions, I went to Atlanta wanting to try to do the same. Given my propensity for being git-‘er-done task-oriented, this doesn’t come naturally, so I borrowed a tip I recalled from leadership guru Michael Hyatt.
He once spoke about taking time to look down at his feet now and then, as a reminder that this was where he was at that moment, so he should be fully engaged with who and what was right there and then, rather than living in the past or looking ahead to what’s next.
It helped me to imagine I was putting on an a pair of clown-length shoes each morning, as I set out for my day. So if you saw me walking around the show with an exaggerated stride, looking like I was wearing a pair of flippers, that’s what was going on. And I hope that if you stopped to ask me about it, I took the time to explain…