Sometimes a Room is Not Just a Room

Theatrefolk has been dogging the conference trail for over six weeks now. We’re in the home stretch, just two more before Christmas. Then, we fall into a coma and we’re ready for the new year.

It’s been very interesting to see the different types of exhibit halls. We’ve been in school hallways, hotel hallways, ballrooms, gyms and just last week we were in a conference hall that had over a thousand exhibits. They had four full sized buses on the exhibit floor. Some places we’ve been to have had no interest in the exhibits, like we have no part in the conference. Some places treat us like family. Next week we’re going to Arizona where they’re feeding us at least twice. It’s all varied and all very interesting.

You’d think that the room we’re in wouldn’t matter. A room is a room is a room, right? If only that were true. The room is part of a huge psychological puzzle. Put us in the wrong room and we’re staring at each other as the silence bounces off the walls. Last year we were at one conference that was a converted parking garage. We were in a dark concrete basement and nothing could be done to hide that fact.

In September we were in New York where we thought the exhibit hall was going to be a disaster because it was out of the the way in a theatre lobby and the conference hadn’t officially started. Turned out it be one of our best.

A couple of weeks ago we were at a conference where the organizers were excited about the room we were going to be in. It’s so much better. It’s a great room.

Turned not to be not so great. Other exhibitors talked about how awful the room was because participants didn’t know to look for us in the room. They were used to seeing exhibitors in a different location.

Some times we’re in a room with just a couple of other tables. This week in Chicago it was rows and rows and rows (and rows and rows) of exhibitors. At first we were awe struck. How would we ever stand out? We’re just small time dorky publishers. Turns out there were a lot of dorky people there. We weren’t too small at all.

Traffic flow is psychological too. If the conference traffic doesn’t go through the exhibit hall, then there’s a good chance the people won’t either. Except in Chicago of course where the exhibit was like a tourist attraction fun ride. I never saw so many people prowling the rows.

We’ve learned a lot this fall. One of which is that too many conferences are a way stupid idea and makes for insanely cranky, brain mushy, people. Oh wait, I’m supposed to end this positively. We’ve learned a lot this fall – We come up with new ideas on our feet, we have meetings over what works and what doesn’t – going to conferences is like going to school. And it’s a kind of school I rather enjoy. At the end of the day I know that every basement I sit in, every cavernous gym, every great conference is a step forward.

Yay for the positive note! And yay, only two more to go!

About the author

Lindsay Price