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The ultimate survival guide to trade shows

roomsXML’s Mark Luckey gives you a survival guide on “speed dating” for the travel trade show.

roomsXML’s Mark Luckey gives you a survival guide on “speed dating” for the travel trade show.



Whether it’s a small event or the full-scale assault of a WTM London, there is a certain something about the travel trade show.

Seasoned veterans strut their stuff, desperately shoving their product down your throat before someone else’s gets wedged in sideways, whilst you try and remember anything past minute seven.

Here is my top five reflections to survive, prosper and if that’s your thing (it’s not mine) get laid.


1. If it’s about a destination, know the destination


The look of horror on her face that I didn’t know the name of all the tube stations in Hong Kong was absolute. I want to learn about the hotel. But no, that wasn’t enough, I needed to know how long it took to get from the airport, how much, and what tube station to get out and not to go to that other hotel but to go to theirs.

If it is about a destination, people take a lot of pride in it and assume you think about nothing else. Which I don’t, seriously.


2. Stay lubricated


“Yup, sure, just let me grab a drink… oh, okay, why don’t you just keep talking… I will stay here and dry out…”

When you are into your tenth of 15 appointments which run for 15 minutes each and you are talking roughly 50 percent of the time in one of those air-conditioned convention centres, you get dry, very quick. Water is important.

At 4.00pm, Vodka is important. It’s a great idea to have alcohol around your table because at that stage, everyone is thirsty, bored and burnt out. I’ve seen people have the chilled vodka on the table at 4:15 PM, zero in on the hot chick who is on their arm by 8.00pm.

You definitely don’t want to start and continue drinking at lunchtime as that can lead to a lack of appreciation for your sense of humour.


3. Sense of humour is not universal


Half the people at the table were cracking up laughing, two were very confused and two were exceptionally offended.

It was fairly obvious that the guys who had just raided our table for food were not in the travel industry, but more likely the Russian mafia. When the skull and cross bones tattoo is creeping up above their shirt collar and wrapping around their neck, they are probably not in a front-line sales role in the travel industry. Probably a better chance that they knew somebody in security at the front door.

I probably should have known that two of the people on the table were Russians. Two of them didn’t speak English. The others were buying the drinks later on and I ran home quickly.


4. Have a spiel ready


You are there for a certain product, in my case looking out for the hotel with something a little special.

They open up their brochure and package of goods and you think, “did somebody actually stay at that hotel?”

You need some way to fill the last 14.5 minutes of your pre-allotted slot. In US politics they call it a filibuster. Some people call it being “totally full of shit”. I like to think about it as introducing a different dynamic into the meeting:

“Let’s talk about you. Then again, let’s not, how about those new tube stations.”


5. Be aware of the after party and related post event activities


A few years ago I was an invited buyer. I was introduced to ‘Jimmy’ who was keen to get his property on board the roomsXML bandwagon. Put bluntly, it was a staggering property funded by the aforementioned Russian mafia.

Jimmy is going to show me the real side of XXXX and we go out for dinner “where the locals eat”. Staggering food at 1987 prices. Unbelievable. Then we go out to where the locals drink. The conversation goes something like this

“Jimmy, is it just me or is every bloke in here about 55 and every chick really hot?”

“Well Mark, the blokes are all expat’s from offshore oil rigs and the chicks are all prostitutes. Which one do you like? You aren’t going to give me that “I’m married crap” are you?”

The next morning once that time zone aligned with the home time zone.

“Hi Babe, how is XXXXX going?”

“I met this bloke called Jimmy…”

What are your tips for surviving a trade show?