Animated Pictures at an Exhibition

Pat Raine Webb takes a humorous look at an exhibition from the exhibitor’s angle.

I recently had the dubious honour of representing ASIFA at a Video/Animation Show in London. I came to the conclusion that the most boring thing in the universe, with the possible exception of tomato soup and Jeffrey Archer, is manning (or personning) an exhibition stand.

You arrive with plenty of time to spare, set up your stand, put up your posters, and arrange your literature; tidy little heaps of What is ASIFA? booklets and a few copies of Animafilm. Once this is done you can stare about at the other exhibitors within your stand’s range of vision. You all wait expectantly for the first visitors and try to look bright and interesting. You hurriedly re-arrange your literature at the last minute in what you hope is a more artistic manner and look at the other exhibitors who are doing the same. A quick visit to the cloakroom before the show opens and you come back and stare about again.

The first visitor enters, hesitates before your stand. You intensify your effort to look bright and interesting. He passes by. It is 11.30 am, so you go and get a coffee which is luke warm. After coffee you stroll round the show to see what is going on. Not a lot. Well, its early yet. Plenty of time for visitors. They are probably still having breakfast. You return to your stand and check your watch. You have been there what seems like three days. It is, in fact, an hour. Some people come along and peer at your stand out of the corners of their eyes. You try to look bright and interesting but they are embarrassed and pretend they haven’t seen you. They scuttle off sideways without taking any of your literature. Perhaps the arrangement of your leaflets is not attractive to them. You re-arrange it and then go and get another coffee. It is lukewarm. It is impossible to plan your day so that coffee breaks coincide with the making of fresh coffee. Ten minutes tick by and you go to the cloakroom again. When you get back the pile of leaflets on your table looks smaller. Full of joy you count them, but nobody has taken any. They must have settled a bit.

You yawn, stretch, a bit of jogging on the spot. You go to visit the Press Table and pick up other people’s literature. As you return you smile sympathetically at other exhibitors who are trying to look bright and interesting. Back at your stand you try to look bright and interesting while other exhibitors walk past and smile sympathetically.

Some Japanese visitors arrive. They look good for a few leaflets. You smile but they take literature from everybody else’s stand except yours. Maybe you don’t look bright and interesting enough. “Harro!” you call, “are you interested in joining ASIFA? Velly nice association”. They take a photograph of you and bow politely as they depart.

So you go for a walk and try to look interested in the other stands. One is doing a thriving business; the one with his stand disguised as the Celebrity Bar of the Honolulu Hilton where people are queuing three deep for Banana Daquairis. You go and get another coffee and some biscuits.

A swarm of PLC’s (Professional Literature Collectors) descend. These people haunt every exhibition. Laden with carrier bags from Hi-Tech-Nicks and other up-market emporia, they run eagerly from stand to stand picking up any piece of paper that is not nailed down. They avidly fill their carrier bags with everything they can lay their hands on; including your cheese sandwich. They are obviously not ‘trade’ but some strange breed that thrives on bits of paper. What do they do with it all? Memo to head office; do not wear disposable paper underwear to exhibitions!

Oh joy! Someone comes up to your stand and looks as though they are going to ask a question. You smile brightly and they ask where the ladies is. You direct them in what you hope is an interesting manner.

At last you decide to make use of the spare time, but how? Knitting is out. No one can look interesting while knitting. Perhaps you could make origami birds out of your leaflets and sell them to the Japanese visitors. Inspired by total boredom you decide to write an excruciatingly funny article about manning an exhibition stand: Exhibitions I have Known and Loved or perhaps How to Many an Exhibitor. Just as you are getting started on what may turn out to be a great novel, a voice interrupts.

“Can you tell me about ASIFA please?”

You look up briefly. “Go away! Can’t you see I’m busy!”

Printed in Animator Issue 22 (Spring 1988)