Opening the show
One of the toughest times at a show is as it is being opened, lots of last-minute tasks, stands not quite ready, contractors not quite cleared, hall management to satisfy, visitors amassing… So, imagine my surprise when the Chinese sales manager was nowhere to be found and not answering his radio. Eventually I discovered he was at the back of the venue creating a shrine and praying to whomsoever for the good luck of the show. I politely pointed out that you make your own luck by working diligently at opening the show.
Closing the show
I mentioned earlier how quickly a show disappears once its close is announced. This show took this to heart, an approach all its own. Beside the centre was a fast-moving river, it was a dark reddish brown from up-country rains and would occasionally carry bushes or even trees with it. I spent rather less time in considering the black bags flowing by, some of them as big as body bags, nor questioned too closely the local sewage procedures.
However, on our last afternoon the river overflowed its banks and rushed through the exhibition hall to a depth of two or three feet. Worse, all the electrics in the hall were connected at ground level, so the power and aircon were knocked out straight away leaving us in this hot, dark hall not knowing quite what we were wading in. Opening the doors gave us light but most of the fixtures, brochures and equipment were swiftly carried away. The 4×4 and jet-ski guys were not complaining as they drove/rode out!
Chinese numerology was odd too, I think most westerners now know that 4 is unlucky and 8 is lucky. This is because, in Chinese the number 4 sounds very like the word for death, sei and séi, hence many Asian hotels avoid having a 4th floor, a 14th floor and so on. But it’s not that simple, when I tried to publish the show’s actual attendance figures, I noted reluctance on the part of the Chinese team (which was most of them). They were disturbed because it ended in …28. I queried their reaction saying I thought 8 was supposed to be lucky, but apparently 28 is not. We ended up picking an arbitrary number that caused no such concerns, but then most shows published attendance that was not any more accurate.