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June 18, 2010 / Mervyn Dinnen

Thoughts From an Exhibition…The Land That Time Forgot?

I did something today that I haven’t done for ages…I went to an exhibition, a trade show.

Wow…talk about the land that time forgot! I walked into something that has probably been unchanged for 20 years or least.

First off I arrived (tapping a code number into a machine which printed my name tag…false dawn) and thought I would check in on Foursquare, you know…see who else was there. No-one. I was inside one of the most prestigious exhibition halls in the UK, with about 300 people milling around…and I was the only person there on Foursquare.

And this was a SOFTWARE exhibition. (OK, I know that Foursquare is an acquired taste, and many readers of this blog are yet to be convinced of its relevance, but 1 in 300 at a show mainly centred around technology??!!)

Then there were the stands, lots of them. And all of them looking like they were erected 20 years ago. Seriously, barring the (very) odd laptop there was nothing on any stand that couldn’t have been there 20 years ago – right down to the bowls of business cards placed there for a prize draw!!

In front of each stand there were young men and women wearing dark suits and white or pale blue plain shirts, each one holding brochures. If you so much as caught their gaze then they were all smiles and straight over to you ‘how can we help you’.

There was a cafe, with an area for attendees with laptops and smartphones to e-mail, blog or surf. Except there was no wifi (OK, there was a free public connection which threw you off every 30 seconds) and no 3G.

I attended two presentations. One was about how to get graduates in to HR, about making it strategic, creative and consultative (which will surely only lead to disappointment when they realise that the first 2 years are mainly administrative) and the other was about how to write a good CV. I have to say that little in this latter presentation differed from the day to day advice that any competent recruiter gives (write about achievements not duties…wow!) but it seemed to go down well.

Did I meet anyone? Well I met up with some people who I already knew (and had previously met) through social media, and through them I met some other people.

And there’s the thing for me…I’ve been to unconferences, workshops, tweet ups and networking events all of which I have heard about, and been invited to, through various social media platforms, and all of which have an energy, animation, passion and quest for learning, sharing and knowledge that I found so lacking at this morning’s exhibition.

I was surprised. I assumed that the whole nature of these gatherings had somehow changed because the way we connect, interact and share information is changing on an almost daily basis…I was wrong.

Please tell me that I just had a bad experience, that I was unfortunate, that there are gatherings that loosely fall under the heading ‘exhibitions’ that reflect the tools, channels, technology and spirit that is evolving all the time.

Please.

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