Sunday, January 30, 2011

Trade Shows and Chopsticks

I have just returned from Las Vegas and, yet, another trade show. Had I saved the badges from all such events I have attended over the years, I would have more than enough to wall paper my entire house plus the one I am shopping for in Florida.

What were once called conventions, and later trade shows, are more commonly referred to today as exhibitions. Since I entered the business world during the “Trade Show” era, I still use that designation. Now, at the end of my career, these events seem to be a colossal waste of time and money. And I’ve been some doozies. They are generally filled with a great deal of posturing, bluster, back slapping, insincerity, heavy drinking, and too much food; and for some, well, as they say, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

I must admit that they clearly have their place in the business world. About 15 years ago I was told by the General Director of an Italian company I represented, that his firm wrote more than 50% of their annual business over four days each autumn at the Cersaie Ceramic and Stone Exhibition in Bologna. So, despite how I feel about the subject, they will not be going away any time soon.

Therefore, may I suggest that since we cannot outlaw these events, we should consider making the proper use of chopsticks a part of our elementary school curriculum?

Let me explain. Like all things, trade shows have changed. Twenty years ago one would make appointments ahead of time and stick to a pre-determined schedule. Ten years ago, with the gaining popularity of cell phones, one might say, “I’ll call you at the show and we will get together.” Now with the social media in full bloom, one might make, change, and eventually cancel an appointment without ever speaking a word.

In similar fashion, the tradeshow dinner might well find one taking a pass on the still popular prodigious portions of red meat and the $100 bottle of Cabernet for the healthier and highly fashionable Asian cuisine. Sushi, Sashimi, Pan Asian, Fusion are terms bandied about these days when planning a tradeshow meal. And with that comes the dreaded need to be chopstick proficient.

The mere mention of dinner at The China Café or Okata still strikes panic in the minds of many. Visions of fumbling with those tiny drum stick gadgets and accidentally flipping a shrimp in to the abundantly exposed cleavage of the boss’ wife can bring quick beads of sweat to many a crack V.P. of Sales. These days one dare not book a flight to these events without first mastering the dexterity needed to maneuver the “sticks”.

I submit that today’s world demands that we teach our kids this critical skill. Sure, at first, they will want to stick them in their ears, in their nose or under their upper lip, fang style. But years from now when the job interview includes the question, “Are you dining bi-tactile?” (can you use chopsticks as well as knife and fork?) they will thank us.

Just one more thought; if we don’t reverse the thirty year dumbing-down of our great country, vis-à-vis fast food, news by sound bite, brainless couch potato sitcom viewing, Sarah Palin worshipping, gun toting, “we are a Christian country” mentality, it is highly likely that chopstick proficiency will take on a practicality well beyond the tradeshow dinner.

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  1. The west coast is already ahead of the east coast in that they are becoming a part of this country that is tri-lingual. They know english, I use that loosely, are pretty proficient in south of the border and are learning some sort of Asian. Bottom line, I agree with your analogy of the situation.

    By the way, you had me laughing.

  2. The ability to use both chopsticks and and fork should be termed "multi-distal digital" (requires the use of the distal joints of two or more fingers) vs "prehensile palmer" (use of hand with fingers wraped around the utensil). If you want to really get serious about this...