Walking into the Assembly Hall, I was immediately caught up in the crowds of business people out to prove the sterling qualities of their products. From the latest BMW 5 series car (pre-launch) to Doggy Daycare, this was
Serious Stuff. For me, it was a bit like going back in time to the days when I was a Working Gal, when attending exhibitions and conferences was Just One Of Thour Things You Do.
On every stand, company representatives
grinning at all-comers in the hope of enticing them to stop and chat about garden waste collections or whizzy computer solutions - while sampling Celebrations chocolates or snapping up a ballpoint pen engraved with the company logo.
Ah, yes, the free gifts! I find myself remembering a three day conference I attended in Cardiff (the Friendly City, according to the Darling Daughter in Law.) Rather than book in to a local hotel for the duration, I had opted to throw
myself on the generoys hospitality of my son and his wife, parents (of course) of the Little Welsh Boys. This was in the days before the Duracell Bunny hopped onto the family scene, when Sam and James could still be counted as "Little" Welsh Boys.
Every day I toured the exhibition stands in search of exciting free gifts I could carry home with me to my little grandsons at the end of proceedings. I think the stall holders were starting to view me with suspicion.
Nobody else returned, time and time again, to pick up cardboard aeroplanes, teddy bears wearing tee-shirts emblazoned with logos and - my Favourite Freebie - juggling balls.
I couldn't resist pocketing a set
of juggling balls for myself. There was a red ball, an orange ball and a green ball, one with a sad face, one with a happy face, one with what can best be described as a non-committal face. They had been produced, in case you are wondering, by a market research
firm specialising in customer surveys.
For several years I kept my set on my office windowsill - one of my colleagues was always dropping in to demonstrate his juggling skills. When I retired I transferred
them onto my kitchen windowsill; in more recent times they have been relegated to the toy box which lives in the garage and comes out to play when the younger grandchildren arrive for a visit.
I was at the
Better Business Exhibition because Voluntary Action Worthing was helping our partners, the local Chamber of Commerce with the soft launch of a new business portal - and it was the least I could do to support the lovely Julie who was signed up to be on duty
for the whole day. How could I help? I asked (yes, I did realise that simply helping myself to free gifts and sampling chocolates wouldn't suffice.) Julie suggested I work the floor and try to persuade people to visit our stand. Well, I did my best.
"Do you have a dog?" the sweet woman on the Doggy Daycare stand asked me hopefully - adding: "Well you're not much use to me, then, are you?!" as I shook a reluctant head. She was kind enough to forgive me for my dogless
state and allowed herself to be dragged across the Assembly Hall to meet Julie.
My best catch was Bob the Town Crier in full regalia (complete with bell) who accompanied me like a lamb, succumbed to having
his photograph taken with both Julie and me and managed to stop himself ringing his bell in my ear. He confessed himself fortunate that there wasn't too much competition for Town Criers in Worthing but, then, there's nobody quite like Bob.
He really is the business...