I feel a bit like a sheep.
The metro and the cabs drop off hundreds and hundreds of passengers as close to the entrance of the conference center as possible. But the entrance is at the corner of Halls 4 and 5. We turn left because our exhibit is in Hall 1, a long way down Concourse 1.
As we enter along with thousands of other exhibitors, I look back at the courtyard of the Dubai World Trade Center. Arab Health has grown so much that a temporary hall has been erected in the courtyard. A glance at the floor plan explains why my feet hurt!
I let the stream carry me down the concourse until I finally reach the hall where the US Pavilion is set up. Tembua is in the far back corner, but as visitors start to arrive, I realize our location is a very active area on the way to food stands.
The stands themselves are very different from the places we exhibit in the US. The long area between aisles is divided by hard walls to form stands at varying intervals. A waist-high counter is provided, along with a small table and chairs. We are fortunate to be on the end of a row, and we can set up outside the stand to allow people to see our graphics.
What I notice very quickly is the lack of a carpet pad. I’ll leave a note to bring gel inserts next year!
We have covered the walls with giant posters about Tembua in English, Portuguese, Chinese and Arabic. It’s fun to listen to people discussing the text in their own languages! Everyone tells me the translations are great (which I knew already). Several stands down from us, one of our customers is giving out brochures that we translated into Arabic. She, too, says people are impressed.
Wave after wave after wave of people surges by. Show organizers tell us that they expect roughly 100,000 visitors. My original plan to leave one person at our stand while the others circulate is clearly inadequate. We need everyone working to engage interested visitors in conversation.
Bonjour! Salam wa aleikum! Guten Morgen! Nǐ hǎo! Where are you from? Is this your first time in Dubai? Where is your stand? Can I introduce you to Tembua?
We gradually learn that some of the more traditionally dressed women will talk to me but not to the males at our stand. Conversely, when I look directly at some of the older men, they move away immediately, so I let one of Tembua’s men talk to them.
There’s some additional excitement on the first day of the show. The US Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Michael Corbin, is visiting the first-time exhibitors. We are told that he is a truly a working ambassador rather than a figurehead. That’s easy to believe as he stops by and asks some intelligent questions, listening intently to everything I say.
I find myself in some very interesting conversations. More about that next time.