Dreams do come true, y’all.
A few months ago, when the AFP (American Fundraising Professionals) conference came to San Francisco, I hit the 101 and drove north for an hour to spend four days with Dana Ostomel in the City by the Bay, repping our give-a-shit company to thousands of nonprofit professionals.
That’s right, guys: I got to be a booth babe. I’m not even kidding right now.
11 years ago, I met the beautiful Molly Coke at a tradeshow in Lincoln, NE, where she was a booth babe for our illustrious company (called Digital IMS at the time). Ever since, I’ve aspired to be her. As a secluded writer, my role is mostly behind the scenes. However, I’m in this awkward position of working in a stereotypically introverted profession with a full-blown extroverted personality. Something Josh Gregg would know nothing about.
So when the opportunity arose for me to step up and step out of my lonesome pen-to-paper responsibilities in exchange for three days of hobnobbing, schmoozing, mixing and mingling with the audience I typically only write for, I slipped on my most sensible, yet fashionable, shoes and jumped. I jumped awkwardly, thanks to a nagging hip injury, but still—I jumped. And I conjured up as much booth babe-ness as I could muster to rep my company in the best way possible.
And you know what? It’s not all glitz and glamour, people. I know you’re thinking, "Lisa is so lucky, why can’t I be a booth babe, too?" But there’s some hard shit you have to deal with when you’re rockin’ a tradeshow booth.
Standing. Like, for hours. I don’t own flats except for $2 Old Navy flip flops and my Steph Curry 3s, neither which of seemed appropriate, so yeah—I should have planned better. As it was, my more-fashionable-than-sensible shoes gave me 5,283 blisters and aggravated my nagging hip injury. I’m now getting a hip replacement in August. (That’s totally true—but to be fair, the conference only contributed about .001% to that.)
Keeping your shit together. First, you have to remember exactly how you unpacked the booth materials so you can pack them all back into the shipping container. Details = not my thing. Then you have to download an app so you can scan badges and sync contacts and take notes to make sure each prospective client gets the after-care they deserve. Technology = not my thing. You also have to remember the conference schedule, or at least consult the app to know when it’s “go” time or when you have a minute to run to Trader Joe’s for some chocolate-covered salted caramels. Schedules = not my thing. However, staying employed IS my thing, so I managed to keep my shit together for three whole days. With a smile. #boothbabegoals
Smarmy booth dudes. Well, I should say dude—just one. But he had enough smarm for a whole season of The Bachelorette. We stopped by a cool looking booth one afternoon to see what this particular company did, and it took about 30 seconds before I was creeped out by one guy’s 1) uncomfortable eye contact, 2) swaggy boy-band demeanor, 3) slightly flirtatious half-grin at the end of each sentence and 4) too-tight shirt. He visited our booth the next day to talk about the after-hours party we missed the night before and all the “bad decisions” that had been made. Wait—did you mean to show up at this nonprofit conference or the recruiting party for Chippendales at the bar two blocks down Market Street? I know, I always get those mixed up too.
People who just want you for your swag. I mean, I get it; it’s a conference, there’s lots of free stuff and we had these swell tool thingamabobs that people were clamoring for—it’s understandable. People like swag, yo. But when you’re ready to give your best elevator pitch to someone who comes by for a pen, some Firespring-branded mints and a thingamabob, and they really just want to grab and go, you feel a little used. Maybe even taken advantage of. Like they don’t realize how much value you bring to the table, or how you could make a significant difference in their lives. They don’t understand how happy they could be if they just gave you a chance.
Oh wait. Did I just start talking about my dating life? Sometimes that happens. #embarrassed
Let me just say that, overall, my first booth babe experience was memorable, rewarding and everything I wanted it to be, in spite of the tough stuff and my impending hip replacement (that is .001% the conference’s fault). Until they call my number again, I’ll be back at my laptop, juggling words and phrases, espousing the virtues of Firespring and its products while being entirely too loud for the building and craving the kind of social life that would be lethal to most writers.
My booth babe days are not finished. But my hoochie mama shoes might be.