Everything I Know About Trade Shows I Learned From A Dragon

Some people would be a bit worried the week before their company’s biggest trade show. For me, it’s no big deal. Nothing Intel throws at me next week can be scarier than Dragon*Con.

Before I joined Intel last year as a technical marketing engineer, I had a lot of experience with trade show management. My former employer sent me to a number of trade shows, including Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco. Now, as an Intel employee, I am very active in planning my department’s presence at the show. This includes co-presenting at multiple sessions, running demos in the booth and (for the first time) “office hours” where I answer questions for attendees.

Yeah, that’s a lot. Next week will be pretty busy in comparison to the typical work week, but nothing compared to what I do for my Labor Day “vacation” at Dragon*Con. But I am much easier to find at IDF. Aside from visits to the Technology Showcase, I have a proper schedule …

  • Technical Session: Developing UEFI Support for Linux (EFIS001, 9/11 @ 10:30-11:30am)
  • Technical Session: Using Wind River Simics* Virtual Platforms to Accelerate Firmware Development (EFIS002, 9/11 @ 12:45-1:45pm)
  • Office Hours: Intel Engineers LIVE! (EFIS002, 9/11 @ 4:00-5:00pm)
  • Poster Chat: Developing UEFI Support for Linux (EFIC002, 9/13 @ 11:00am-1:00pm)

While most people take Labor Day weekend off to celebrate the end of summer, I volunteer as videography director for a 46,000+ attendee science fiction and fantasy convention. I have a staff of 25 to record panels, interview guests, cover live events and run a temporary television network for four days between five of Atlanta’s largest hotels.

Compare that to IDF 2012, a three day event that expects over 4,500 attendees in a single convention hall. Yeah, not even close. Dragon*Con and Dragon*ConTV taught me a lot about show management, which also shows me how much IDF has in common with Dragon*Con.

Both events have some amount of cosplay. Engineers at IDF don their best polo shirts, abandoning the standard issue black t-shirt and jeans (it’s a bit too cool for shorts in San Francisco). Attendees at Dragon*Con abandon polo shirts and work uniforms for even nerdier black t-shirts and kilts, unless they chose to break out more complex costumes. I’m sure Stormtroopers and robots would fit in well at either convention.

Both events require an enormous amount of planning. It takes hundreds of people several months to plan an event of this scale. Both events deal with the future, either believed or actual. William Shatner has been a guest at both events, remarking how sci-fi inspired everything from the mobile phones to speech recognition.

My favorite thing about both events is connecting with people. We all spend too much time interacting on-line, either through teleworking or tweeting/blogging about our favorite book/movie/show. Every year I meet new people, make new friends and go through a lot of business cards.

From one future to another, it’s time to pack for IDF.

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