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Trade Shows, Hangovers and Newbs

I am currently at a trade show in Las Vegas, having the time of my life.

And no, I'm not getting wasted and having crazy sex.  I'm back in the swing of things.

I have been in the pet food industry for 10 years now, and I didn't attend the last 2 shows.

I missed it.  The excitement, the networking, and the business that starts at 10am and ends at 2am.

...if you end 'early' like I do.

I am a huge fan of the pet industry, and I love what I do.  Whether or not I stay with the same company for 5/10/20+ years is yet to be decided, but I'm a pet food dude for life.

This show is at the Mandalay Bay convention center, and it has about 2000 exhibiting booths.  During the 3-day event, I will probably see about 200 of my customers, and get about 20-30 new 'unknowns' knocking on my door.  From a business perspective, it's a great time.

But beware.  You're in Vegas, on your company's dime.  The slope here, my friends, can be very slippery.

For example, there are a lot of 'first-timers' here this year.  They're the ones who are piss-drunk by 7pm, will be hurting all night and all morning, and will be miserable at the show.

This is a 3 day event, and they've essentially killed themselves after day 1.  No staying power, these newbs.

To help, I'll share a story with you of my first trade show.  You see, I was a newbie once before.  I went down that path, and I learned my lesson.  LEARN FROM ME.

It was 2003 and my first year working the show.  After the 10-5 buying portion, the night-business starts.  Dinners with vendors, cocktails with customers, and lots of elbow-rubbing.

We were doing dinner at a nice restaurant, and the vendor's CEO was there.  He was paying for the tab and said 'no limits.'  So we drank.

During social hour, I had 2 Jack & Cokes.

I enjoyed 2, maybe 3 glasses of wine with my dinner.

Then the CEO's assistant kicks in, and buys a round of Patron Silver for the table.  We all take a shot, celebrating our successes.

One shot becomes two, becomes six.  Maybe eight.  You lose track after a while.

Me and the assistant start talking.  We become friends.  He wants to toast some more, and orders a glass of Louis XIII Cognac for him, me, his boss and my boss.

At that point I've never had cognac, let alone a $500 per glass cognac....

All in all, in a 4 hour span I drank my weight in liquor.  I, like everyone else, blacked out in my room and woke up with a massive hangover.  The next day, we were all huddled in pain, crying to ourselves in our respective booths.

Not the CEO.  He was alive, awake and felt great.

And laughing at us.

I eventually asked him what his secret was.  I will never forget this man's wisdom.  He said:

"What I do is meet up with our server prior to seating.  I tip him $100 and say 'whatever they drink, I drink.  I want to look and act social.  HOWEVER, my first drink is alcoholic, the rest are not.  If they're drinking Jack and Coke, I'm having Coke.  If they're doing tequila shots, my glass has water in it."

So while we were all getting hammered and saying/doing too much, he was stone cold sober.

And observing.

And remembering.

While I don't rep this man's brand anymore, I will never forget him.  He is the reason I try to 'stay dry' at these shows.

Because you never know who is keeping tabs on you.

And because it's fun to be the one who remembers everything YOU did last night...

First timers, newbs and new hires, heed my advice.  Even if you're in Vegas and your higher-ups want to buy you drinks, do not get blasted in a professional setting.  You'll thank me later.

(and now that my night is complete and I'm under the radar, I'll be at the bar.... )
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