Over the years, I have attended many industry trade shows, both as an exhibitor and a visitor. I have noticed that people like to compare the latest trade show to those of previous years. Some believe that show attendance is on the decline, but enough people still attend to motivate exhibitors to reserve their "booth space" from one year to the next.
I hear many reasons why people do not attend trade shows, and many of them are somewhat contradictory. One frequently mentioned reason is that companies are too busy to allow employees to take time to attend a show. People cannot take time away from their jobs for fear of falling behind. The polar opposite of this reason is that business is slow and people cannot spend time attending shows, when they could be working to generate new business. Ironically, although these common reasons could be viewed as opposing, they both have "time" as their underlying excuse for not attending a trade show.
Why do people attend trade shows? There are many reasons, but one obvious reason is that they find the show to be a good use of their limited time. There are few of us who can say we have more free time now than we did ten years ago. People just seem to be busier. Even with more computers and systems designed to make our jobs easier and our employees more productive, time is still a scarce commodity in most companies. So if we accept the fact that nobody has as much time as they would like, we must use the time we do have wisely. Attending trade shows is always a good use of time.
Trade shows offer us many resources under one roof (or in the case of some of the larger national shows, many roofs). Trade shows present an opportunity to see new equipment and learn about new technologies. Some shows even offer seminars describing new technologies or production techniques. Considering those of us who have little time to attend trade shows typically do not attend formal education or training sessions, such a setup affords the opportunity to do both at the same time. These are just two very good reasons to attend trade shows.
However, I believe there is a more important reason to attend a trade show and that is the opportunity to network. Simply meeting new people, whether they are sales reps or people from manufacturing companies in any industry, provides an opportunity to learn something brand new.
Networking is good for those of us in manufacturing as it makes us feel part of a vast community of people who still believe it is important to make things in this country. Meeting people who share similar visions, encounter similar problems, and are also trying to produce things better, faster and cheaper is comforting. Learning that others have experienced success is motivating. Understanding why others have not experienced success is consoling and may provide a new perspective on a problem that you have faced in your company. Inevitably, I meet someone at a trade show that I meet again in the future. We each become a new resource for the other, willing to share ideas and point to other resources when necessary. Networking helps everyone, and the larger your network, the greater the benefits you can gain.
You can learn at least one piece of important information at every trade show. You may learn about a new product and not see an immediate need in your company. However, just knowing that this product exists and understanding what it can do is helpful in the event an application does come along in the future. In addition, if you learn who is using this product now, you may be able to get some unbiased feedback or develop a new resource for your company.
Get out to those trade shows. Patronize the local shows and help them grow into larger ones. Don't pass up an excellent opportunity to
- Learn what technology is out there to help you now, or in the future,
- Get in touch with potential partners, suppliers or customers,
- Find out who is using today's new technologies and how these technologies are working out,
- Network and share ideas with others in your industry or people from other industries with similar needs, and
- See things beyond the walls of your own company and stimulate your thought process to generate new ideas.
So, go and see the show!