Oy. It’s a Tuesday that feels like a Monday: I am tired and grumpy and I should probably be running right now but I’m not. The only good thing about today is that it’s almost over! Is anyone else having a less-than-stellar day?
As I’ve mentioned, I recently attended the New York City Run Show, which was organized by JackRabbit. I was invited to apply for press access on Friday, which meant that I would be able to get into the show early in order to talk to vendors and experience the expo before the rest of the crowds arrived. Since getting press credentials to this event would mean my first ever event as part of the press, I was really excited when I was approved for access after applying and secured the day off from work so that I’d have as much time at the expo as possible. I was really looking forward to finding out what was new and exciting in the world of running, and all the material it would give me for the blog. In retrospect, I’m not sure if I was naive or over-optimistic, or if my expectations for the event were just way off, because with some exceptions, the whole thing ended up being a pretty solid disappointment, and I kind of want my PTO back.
In the press releases I got about the expo, there was a lot of emphasis on the “press conference” that was being held with the winners of the Run for the Rabbit campaign, but since the time of the expo followed closely on the heels of my being rejected for that very competition, I didn’t have much interest in attending the press conference or interviewing any of the participants. Besides, I figured I’d have plenty to do without going to the press conference, what with talking to all the vendors who would be there about shoes! nutrition! hydration! sports bras! and other assorted running-related things.
I got to the expo at 10 am, the time the doors were supposed to open for the press. Upon entering, I approached the table where VIPs and members of the press were directed to go, and introduced myself. The staff were nice, but didn’t seem to have any idea what was going on. I was given a yellow wrist bracelet, and then stared at blankly. “Can I go in?” I asked, when I received no direction regarding what I should do. The woman who’d put my bracelet on me just sort of gave me a nod/shrug combination, so I headed over to the main entry. At that point, two enormous security guards slightly combatively blocked my way, which created a weird vibe right off the bat. After a couple minutes, they let me through the doors they were guarding, into a large reception area where I was told somewhat rudely that I couldn’t bring my backpack into the expo. Having had no idea that this rule would be in place prior to my arrival, I’d packed my backpack as though I would have it with me the whole day–I had a notebook, my wallet, my camera, and I’d also planned to stuff my jacket into it. Instead, I hastily grabbed my notebook, pen, and phone, and figured that I’d just have to snap cell-phone quality pictures of all the cool stuff I was bound to see inside as I checked my backpack. Then I waited outside what was actually the main entrance, in front of another slightly vacant staff member. When another expo attendee walked right past her into the showroom, I asked her if I could go in as well (I had assumed I couldn’t, since they had made such a big deal about how things weren’t open but I could go into the reception area if I absolutely had to). She looked kind of surprised, “Oh, um, yeah, I guess so?” Okay, great start.
I picked up a program for the day’s events and folded it into my notebook where I’d written down the times of the different talks I wanted to attend. The first one wasn’t until around 1 or 1:30, and since it was only about 10:10, I had some time on my hands. Time to chat up some vendors! The problem was that as I walked around the near-empty showroom, I found it hard to really connect with anyone. I passed the Adidas booth, and the Brooks booth, and it looked like no one was staffing either of them. The Vibram booth had an abundance of staff in it, which intimidated me (obviously I worked up the nerve to go back a bit later), and I decided maybe it would be best to explore some of the smaller vendors’ booths while I worked up my courage and put on my press face.
I ended up at the Yurbuds booth, where both the guys were really nice and friendly. They let me try on a pair of Yurbuds and told me about the company’s background (they’re endorsed by IronMan, which I thought was cool given what a contentious topic ipods/headphones are during endurance events to begin with), and did a great and very convincing demo by letting an ipod dangle from the Yurbuds cord while the earbuds stayed in my ears. After we’d chatted a bit, they asked if I was press, and I told them a little bit about my blog. “Oh, well, we’d love to give you something to take with you, but we’re actually not supposed to give anything away–it’s the expo rules,” one of them said. I was kind of surprised for a couple reasons: 1) I hadn’t actually asked for anything, and 2) I had assumed that one of the benefits of having press access to an event like this would be a minimal amount of swag. Since I’m not a professional writer, I don’t really have any means with which to obtain and evaluate new products other than my own meager salary, and I’m certainly not in a position where I can go to a running expo and load up on products paid for out of my own pocket for reviews or any kind of reporting. “But, let me give you my contact information, and you can get in touch with me so we can set something up for you,” he continued. He gave me his email address and I thanked both the guys for their time, and went on my way.
After that, I talked to the reps from Nathan, BodyGlide, Powerbar, and CW-X, all of whom were really nice and informative. I poked around a booth with products from Nuun and some other vendors, but no one was there. I passed by the Saucony booth several times hoping someone would be there to let me try on the Kinvara or the Peregrine, but no one was there, either. In other booths, the staff looked like they just didn’t want anything to do with being there. The people from Vibram were nice, and the guy I spoke with at the Mizuno booth was really friendly as well. Overall, though, there was just an odd feeling to the entire event. I felt like the only reason I (or any press) had been invited was to cover the Run for the Rabbit event, and since I wasn’t interested in doing that, there was really nothing for me to do. None of the vendors really had any new products, and there wasn’t a significant difference between what was on display at the Run Show and what you’d find at any standard marathon or large race expo. A lot of the vendors I did talk to didn’t seem to know that there had even been time set aside for press to come in, and the guys from Yurbuds were not the only ones who mentioned that they couldn’t give me any product but that I could contact them after the expo if I wanted them to send me anything. I heard one vendor telling another woman that their socks (the company was called Feetures, I believe) were in the press swag bag, but if there was a press swag bag I definitely didn’t get it. By the time 11:30 rolled around, I just wanted to get out of the Run Show. I didn’t feel like waiting around for the talks that I was interested in to start, and I had exhausted my possibilities when it came to speaking with vendors. I went back home with a major sense of disappointment. I could have gone to a running store or a race expo and gotten the same information I’d gotten at the Run Show. Hell, I could have sat at home and gone on my laptop to get the same information. I’d lost a vacation day that I could have used for an actual vacation. I’d been treated sort of rudely by JackRabbit staff and the security they had hired, and I didn’t really even have any new and interesting blog content to show for it.
The whole thing left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and the reason I’m blogging about it now is because I’m still kind of bothered. My understanding of the function of having press come to an event was to create a mutually beneficial exchange–I have you come to my event and give you some product to write about, you write about it and create some buzz or publicity for it. It’s clear to me now that the purpose of having press at the event was to benefit the Run for the Rabbit campaign, and since I chose not to participate in that aspect of the whole thing, I essentially rendered myself useless and consequently, unimportant. And even though I feel selfish saying it, if I had known there wouldn’t be any opportunity to even purchase items at a discounted press price, I wouldn’t have taken the day off work to attend. I was attending the following day (and had to purchase a ticket for it) to be at the LUNAChix table anyway, so I didn’t really experience anything on Friday that made it worth going, and that I couldn’t have experienced on Saturday. In fact, Saturday was a huge improvement because I attended the talks I wanted to attend without having to wait around for them to start because I’d arrived too early. Ultimately, I regret what was a waste of time for me.