The Tao of Tchotchkes

Years ago I owned a company called Bananagraphics that, among other things, supplied tchotchkes to people who wanted to pass them out to every Tom, Dick or Harry who came within spitting distance of their booth. I love them, they are essentially toys for adults (not to be confused with adult toys).

The best tchotchke I ever got was a Skype headset. It’s very nice and I use it when I do webinars. (My webinars are epic, if you haven’t already attended one you should.) The headset says “LivePerson” on it. That is either the brand of headset or there is a company called LivePerson. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter, although my ownership of the headset isn’t really compelling me to go check it out, even though I’m writing an article on the subject. The bottom line is that these kinds of things do not generate sales. Sorry.

There are two other problems with tchotchkes, besides their not generating sales. The first is that the word itself is a pain in the ass to spell. The second is that trade show exhibitors use them for the wrong reasons. They use them to lure people into their booths, like a carrot.

Using tchotchkes like carrots is problematic for two reasons. First, it’s an insult and second you lose the opportunity to use it for a better purpose- to end conversations.

Think about it. You are attending a trade show to learn all the great things an industry has to offer. To imply that you are there for anything other than intellectual and professional simulation is an insult and for me to stand in my booth passing out tchotchkes is tacky. Everybody does it, but that doesn’t make it right.

The best use of tchotchkes is when you are finished with the conversation with an attendee. When you do that it helps bring closure to the discussion and it acts as a little thank you for spending the time. Now the attendee can leave feeling good about the interaction and put your tchotchke in the trash with all the other tchotchkes they will collect at the show.

Trade Show Samurai on the show floor turn over attendees like pancakes. Every few minutes they will be ending one conversation and starting another. It is essential to be able to end the conversation smoothly, quickly and respectfully. This is called the Art of Disengagement and a little tchotchke is almost perfect, a business card is perfect, but if you must have tchotchkes at your booth, use them properly.

Mike Moyer

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