Trade show wrap-up: together, and alone

“But what about socialisation?” This is one of the questions most often asked of homeschooling families. Don’t worry—my kids get plenty of socialisation. Me, I’m a different story. That’s one of the reasons why I enjoy going to the Show for five days straight: I get to meet people and be with people.

Don’t get me wrong—selling products and making money is the main reason for exhibiting at a trade show. But for someone like me, the other main benefit is to just be out there and talk to people. By “someone like me”, I mean that close friends who know me well will already know that I’m not that much of a social butterfly. Of course, I get along tremendously well with people, I’m not shy, and I know that I’m an easy enough person to be friends with. But much of the time, I have a very small, close circle of people in my life, and I don’t really want to be out there socialising all that much. I’m the one who’s begging off party invitations half the time, while my husband has to explain my absence with something other than, “She just didn’t want to be here.”

In every couple, it’s a known fact that one person is the more outgoing, bolder personality. In our case, that person isn’t me. Even this past week, that fact was quickly noticed, when after a Friday night dinner with some newfound friends, the first thing I was told by those friends the next morning was, “Your husband is hilarious.” Indeed, he is. He grabs the spotlight and shines, and I really don’t mind. I like being more background-filler, until the time is right.

And the time is right for me only every once in a while, one of those times being during trade shows when I’m “forced” to be together with people. While I may gripe and complain about the amount of work and stress in the weeks leading up to each show, in the end, I do truly enjoy myself. (Because I know that it doesn’t take place that often, and I can afterwards go back to being my mostly-introverted self.) But I do enjoy meeting my customers, and talking to them not only about baby products, but about parenting in general. I like chatting with random strangers, and exchanging smiles, compliments, and lighthearted banter. I love the fact that there are so many exhibitors here from Québec, so it gives me a chance to strike up conversations in French, which I haven’t done often in the past six years here. Most of all, I really do like spending 11 hours a day talking with fellow exhibitors. As long as I’m placed near people who are interesting, with fun and intelligent things to say, I can really get into the whole “socialisation” thing. Whether it’s from casual, friendly chatter to serious, profound conversations, I do relish the idea of meeting people who could turn out to be long-term friends.

Fortunately, the show this past week turned out to be one that yielded some great friends, both new and past. New friends allowed me to learn all kinds of things, from the politics of South Africa to unusual photographic techniques, and even told me that I was “fun” and “sassy”. And old friends touched me with their kindness: I was especially moved when at one point, one of my friends from last spring’s show, came up to me, put an arm around my shoulders, and said, “Darling, are you okay? You looked stressed out yesterday.” I wasn’t really all that stressed out, but it was truly lovely to be thought of with such concern. (And those who really know me well will know that I’m usually not a “darling” and touchy-feely kind of person unless it’s with someone really close, so that gives you an idea of how strong a relationship you can forge at these types of events.)

So a trade show can be a truly enriching experiencing, in more ways than one.

. . .

Something interesting to note, one which will seem in direct contrast to what I just expressed here, is that being away from home at a trade show is lovely in all the alone time that it yields. Yes, after 11 hours straight of being with people, chatting until my throat is dry and smiling until my cheeks seem sore, it’s heavenly to just be by myself and do nothing but stew in my own thoughts. For a short period of time during the year, I can be just me, and not have mom and wife duties. I can watch anything I want on tv, turn the heat on in the hotel room as high as I want (which is almost uncomfortably high), and leave my clothes and shoes and bath towels anywhere I please. I can decide at a moment’s notice to stroll the downtown streets of Toronto, shopping like a single girl, and taking in the sights and sounds of late evening (and I never appreciated before how lovely Toronto can be on a warm spring evening). After so many years of being at home with husband and kids, almost 24 hours a day, it took a trade show to make me realise that I deserved days of just “me” time.