Top 5 Worst Tradeshow Experiences

Tradeshows can be very informative. They can provide you with valuable connections, and introduce you to the latest advances in technology. They can open up worlds of opportunity and even give you a leg up on your competitors through exclusive deals and insider intel.

They can also be boring as hell.

Whether you're a tradeshow veteran or only go to the ones that come with a free lobster dinner, you've undoubtedly come across certain situations that are less than stellar. Uncomfortable seats, buffets that look as old as time, coffee that could melt steel, delegates with breath that could also melt steel, and speakers who make jokes so bad it hurts your soul are just some of the not-so-awesome experiences that tend to mar these necessities of business.

Here we've listed a few of the best (worst) examples we can come up with. If you can top them, tell us in the comments. We'll give you a warm round of gentle applause and a free lobster dinner. (Actually, scrap the latter offer.).

Click on the image to start the slideshow.

Lame Hotel WiFi
When the hotel WiFi forces you to invent new bandwidth measurements such as BPM ('bits per megayear').
When the hotel WiFi forces you to invent new bandwidth measurements such as BPM ("bits per megayear").

— The Staff, Light Reading

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TeleWRTRLiz 11/14/2013 | 2:10:26 PM
Re: No wireless By day 2, you will see me frantically taking notes during all my briefings in order to stay awake. The tradeshow background noise/drone tends to lull me to sleep and no amount of caffeine can keep me awake, especially if it's overseas. 
Phil_Britt 11/13/2013 | 12:03:00 PM
No wireless Have been at plenty of tradeshows where planners forget about the press -- no place to work, inadequate online or phone access (before the large proliferation of smartphones), etc.


But the worst had to be in the late 1990s when I covered a wireless conference at Chicago's McCormick Place, but few if any at the conference could get a wireless signal.
bobmachin 11/13/2013 | 3:49:42 AM
Re: Stay away from the canapes... How do you resist wine with that dynamic?
DanJones 11/8/2013 | 3:16:40 PM
Re: Telecom 99 - The Titanic of Tradeshows CeBIT '99


I was at the Hotel Terminus just outside Hamburg Station, couldn't get a room in Hannover itself.

My room door didn't lock and we were just steps from Hamburg's infamous red light district. You can imagine the kind of foot traffic the place got at night. I had to prop a chair under the door handle.
brookseven 11/8/2013 | 11:44:35 AM
Re: Telecom 99 - The Titanic of Tradeshows I was at N+I in 2000 and got invited to a Genband party at the Hard Rock Hotel. Free Food, Drinks and Cigars for 500 and Buckwheat Zydeco and Robert Cray.  For a company that was several years from revenue.  The Glory of it all.

Supercomm that year in the Georgia World Congress Center.  I shared a room one night due to a screw up and then got into a Red Roof Inn in Norcross (right across from the Waffle House!). Anybody remember the rooms/booths on the floor of the Georgia Dome?

But the worst for me was Supercomm 04 because of the FiOS issues at Verizon and the acquistion problems with Tellabs.  My CEO and CFO decided to skip the show to avoid the press and analysts. I spent 2.5 days in the booth without a break except for the two presentations I had to give.  I had a temp IR person as ours had retired.  The worst was an analyst (I am looking at you Merrill Lynch) who had a wireless setup and I would get random questions in my ear from people that I couldn't see. Normally I could take a minute on a bad question and compose myself by pointing at something in the booth.  That was just a nightmare to work on responses in real time with no good stalling techniques.



RichardArthur 11/8/2013 | 10:22:16 AM
Re: Telecom 99 - The Titanic of Tradeshows Ah yes giveaways - who remembers "open to the public day"?  The day when your giveaways dissappear faster than the proverbial cow in pirhanna bay.  The day when the main thing you could be guaranteed was that you would do basically no business. Oh and some of your equipment might get stolen.
acohn 11/8/2013 | 10:07:32 AM
Re: Telecom 99 - The Titanic of Tradeshows "Wish now I knew what I know back then"  Couldnt take more advantages of the booth compeition!  The Elton John Nortel show, upstairs at the Lucent booth!  The Optical start up booth babies with stock options in their eyes.  I still have so much give away that still are being used.  Ciena's Lightworks Lou where are you now?  (Partied with that guy caused my liver failure later in life)
gfinnie 11/8/2013 | 6:47:22 AM
Re: Telecom 99 - The Titanic of Tradeshows At Telecom 95, I spent one sleepless night (and only one night) in a "hotel" that was used mainly used by the local authority to house Geneva's drug addicts and alcoholics. Fights broke out in the corridors overnight. I think that experience would be hard to beat. 
R Clark 11/7/2013 | 8:30:10 PM
Take step back, turn your head The worst is the booth interview with the person of uncertain oral hygiene.

And the lunch queues and taxi queues.

It wouldn't be a telecom industry conference without intermittently available connectivity.
David Dines 11/7/2013 | 4:56:15 PM
Re: Only 5 Worst?? I agree, though I am not sure which is worse, the boring stuff that I might be able to decipher and glean something out of it when I have time, or the advertising pitch that tells you nothing.  

Plus having terrible wifi a real problem, because at least if you can connect, you can be produtive while being bored.

I have to admit, though, that being an attendee is much better than being a exhibitor.  The pressure is on constantly and when things go wrong, you lose lots of sleep.
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