Potato, Patahto

When it comes to choosing event management technology, suppliers and vendors must peel away the jargon to get to the real issue

I used to have about a dozen potato peelers in one of my kitchen drawers just like the one pictured above. In fact it’s the last one of the bunch. A few years ago I threw all the others away during a purge of unnecessary items taking up space in my kitchen. I originally bought them out of a sense of pity for the person selling them. 

He was an elderly sidewalk pitchman who would occasionally show up in the business district of my neighborhood in New York City. This was in the late ’90s and the tradition of being a sidewalk pitchman was in it’s final death throes. But he was a classic example of the breed — a charismatic hustler selling his wares on a busy street corner. In this case his wares were simple potato peelers — that was it. Yet the power of his personality and his genuine enthusiasm for the usefulness of his product as he demonstrated how it worked always drew a large crowd. 

I would stop and watch for a few minutes whenever I came across him, admiring his presentation skills, all the while thinking to myself: “What a waste. This guy is a great salesperson. It’s a shame he’s squandering his talent on an item that has such little commercial potential.” Then I would buy a potato peeler out of pity and go on my way.

I could not have been more wrong. 

One Sunday, I was shocked to see a quarter-page obituary of this man in The New York Times. The paper called him, “the last great sidewalk pitchman.” It turned out that when he wasn’t selling his potato peelers in the business district of my neighborhood, he was delivering pitches in one of the many hundreds of neighborhood business districts found throughout the five boroughs of New York City. According to the obituary, he was earning six figures a year selling his potato peelers.

There is a lesson to be learned from this story. While the classic sidewalk pitchman might be gone, the essence of creative selling and connecting with customers on a personal level can still be exist in the  modern world.  

This is especially true when it comes to tech companies selling services to meeting planners. Sometimes planners and tech suppliers jump straight to finding software or a new system, without fully comprehending the root cause of the event management issue. This can lead to solutions that don’t address the real problem or create new issues altogether. Tech companies tend to categorize themselves as providers of solutions such as data analytics, budgeting or registration. This can get in the way of reaching the point where both the vendor and the planner have a conversation about what it is the organization really needs. A buyer might need to grow leads, increase attendance, improve engagement or content augmentation. Sometimes the vendor categories need to be peeled away to get to the real issues.

Any thoughts, opinions, or news? Please share them with me at vince@meetingsevents.com.

Can Your Attendees Pack a Week’s Wardrobe in a Carry-On?

Here are seven packing tips planners can send their attendees to help them to fit everything they'll need for the event into one carry-on. Come to think of it, planners should follow these tips as well.


to receive every two weeks our newsletter with unique meeting event planning information!

* indicates required