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I attended a small marketing industry trade show in Sydney today. The exhibition stands were mostly back walls with flat screens and people sitting on stools or lounge chairs.

I entered the show and started to wander around. There was a circular walk with an aisle down the middle of a single room. Not too complicated to navigate.

I walked passed every stand. At one stand, two male staff were talking to each other blocking the walkway. I excused myself as I walked between them. They let me through without so much as an introduction.

In fact, not one person on any of the stands tried to engage with me, despite my enthusiastic body language. And I did shower and use deodorant today.

It wasn’t because the exhibition was busy. I visited during the conference speeches, so there were more exhibitor staff than visitors.

Here’s what about 90% of the exhibitors were doing as I passed them by:

exhibit-hall-table-bored

working hard staring at my screen at a trade show…

This is what is called the “Content Marketing” theory of trade show success.

As you know the content marketing experts have pronounced selling is dead. All you need to do these days is publish content, your customers will then immediately engage with you and profits will fall from the skies as a result. You don’t have to sell anything. Just chillax and check your phone regularly.

This theory has now pervaded trade shows. To succeed, you just put staff on your stand with their smart phones. They spend their whole time staring and playing with their screen, because they don’t have to sell. Prospective customers will engage them if they want to know anything or to buy something.

If only the world was digital when I ran my exhibition stands. I could have just hung around all day, gone to the cocktail functions and my KPIs would be met.

Hmmm, maybe I can create a service providing exhibition stand slaves who charge a fee to stare into phone screens all day? I could use backpackers, they’re cheap and they know how to stare at mobile phones.

I’m off to crowd-fund this brilliant idea and open up a social site for people to Like and get the Twitterverse jabbering.

Instant retirement, here I come!

Hang on, I just have to take a quick look at my phone…