Mace Stuffing His Face by Brandon (danger_boy_13).

Photo by Flickr user Brandon Larkin

After my November 2008 post, 2008 NFDA Convention: The Tired, The Hungry and The Bored, in which I told vendors not to eat food on the convention floor, I got a few emailed responses that disagreed with me.  Here’s the most common rebuttal and my re-rebuttal (if that’s even a word):

“I paid for it, so I should get to eat it.”
You’re right, your money did help pay for the food that some convention put out “free” for attendees.  And no convention organizer is going to tell you not to eat it.  But I’m telling you to keep out of that food. 

Why?  Because you have a limited amount of time to interact with your visitors.  Why spend even 30 seconds of that time stuffing food into your mouth when you can do that before the show?  At the IFDF Convention in June 2008, we had exactly 5.5 hours to sell cot covers.  I had a goal of 15 covers sold for the show, so I needed to sell almost three an hour.  Not a lot of time to eat all the wonderful food offered (they had cookies, fruit and hand-carved roast beef, among other things). 

“I didn’t get a chance to eat before the show.”
Here’s my heartless answer:  get organized and plan your time better.  Ouch, huh?  Truth is, you should have been ready hours in advance so you could have a bite to eat before the show.  You took time getting showered and dressed, didn’t you?  Why didn’t you budget time to eat?

Stuffing his face by emtboy9.

Photo by Flickr user emtboy9

“The show hours are during my dinnertime.”
You mean they’re serving food to attendees when they might be hungry?  Seems kinda obvious, doesn’t it?  But guess what, if you’re going to get the most out of the convention, you can’t take a chance that you’ll have poppy seeds stuck in your teeth or mustard in the corner of your mouth when talking with a prospective client.

Why take the chance of having a mouthful of food when you need to talk to a customer, especially if you can always eat a snack before and plan a meal to celebrate your success (fingers crossed) after the show closes?

“But the food just looks so good!”
If the food is attractive and smells even better, you should be happy; the spread is meant to please your visitors and make them more eager to enjoy the rest of their stay on the expo floor.

But practice some self control!  If you expect to keep your booth and your clothes as attractive as the food, you need to minimize the chance that you might spill something on your carpet, your product or yourself.  That’s why I try to keep our in-booth food/beverage items restricted to water. 

“I only eat the food if the convention is slow.”
Unless the traffic has ground to a complete halt, you have even more reason to be the one person not stuffing his face.  Those visitors who are wandering the floor are still convention attendees and all the regular rules apply.  You need to get their attention (with your booth design, your product or your winning smile) and convince them to come look at your product.  You need to invite them into your home.

If you’re already in the middle of a meal (I once saw a salesman for a big industry company carry a full plate of food, stacked three inches high, to his booth) they won’t feel welcome and while they won’t say it, they won’t want to interrupt your dinner.

Chubby Cheeks by Cynnerz Photos.

Photo by Flickr user Cynnerz

“I eat when I’m nervous.”
When the nerves hit you (convention expos can be stressful) try tidying your booth or folding pamplets.  And if your “meal” of choice is fingernails, stop biting those, too.  You need to be appropriately groomed to impress your guests and bleeding fingernails are bad form.

“Everyone else eats at expos.”
Yeah, and everyone else ends the show complaining about the attendance, their low sales figures and their inability to attract visitors to their booth. 

Not to blow my own horn to loudly (picture Dizzy Gillespie’s distended cheeks), but we don’t have those problems.  But then again, we’re not everyone else and we don’t eat in our booth.  Maybe we’re on to something.

In Conclusion…
Unless you’re working an eight-hour show, there’s no reason why you can’t wait until after the show to eat a meal.  And if you are doing that super-long show, the best arrangement is to get away from the booth to eat.  If you don’t have someone to take over for you (I always bring a helper, but I can finally afford it), work out an arrangement with a neighboring vendor and trade off coverage so each of you can eat something light away from the show floor.