hroughout the year, my editorial team and I personally attend a barrage of trade shows in cities from Minneapolis to Milan. In fact, I just returned from Las Vegas, where I attended a whopping five trade shows in five days. When I say "attend," I
mean "walk every square inch of the show floor in search of editorial fodder." And as it turns out, what happens in Vegas gives me blisters.
To give you a brief glimpse of my epic exhibition experience, here are some of the highlights and lowlights from each of the events I attended.
National Association of Broadcasters
This trade show featured aisle upon aisle of exhibitors displaying similar products in similar ways with similar benefit statements. How do companies expect to stand out when their entire exhibit-marketing programs are mirror images of their competitors' programs?
On a positive note, the exhibit for Autodesk was absolutely breathtaking. Made almost entirely of cardboard tubes arranged in an oh-so-elegant manner, it stands out as one of the most aesthetically engaging and innovative exhibits I've had the pleasure of visiting.
United Fresh Produce Show
Anyone who has ever been to this show knows it's all about sampling. And while that strategy is an effective way of getting your product in the hands - and mouths - of potential buyers, most exhibits teeter awfully close to becoming glorifi ed drivethrough windows, and their respective key messages get lost in the wouldyou-like-to-try-a-sample shuffle.
Recognizing that challenge, Mastronardi Produce Ltd. turned a portion of its exhibit for Sunset produce into the Campari Café. The aisle-side café was basically a hospitality lounge where attendees could relax and sample snacks cooked up using the company's produce, while staffers communicated the brand's key messages.
Smart, simple, and successful.
The highlight of this event for the industrial-textile industry was a VIP Buyer's Lounge with refreshments, meeting spaces, etc. All of the show's exhibitors are encouraged to nominate their top clients and prospects for this special status, and show management selects and alerts the VIPs of the amenities they are thereby entitled to at the show. What a great way to make big spenders feel extra special on site.
International Cemetery and Funeral Association Show
Attending a funeral show on my birthday was a little like tempting fate, don't you think?
But whoever came up with the idea of scattering open bars and food stations throughout a show floor should win the Nobel Prize. Seriously though, having snacks and refreshments available in the exhibit hall, which was open from 5 to 7 p.m., not only attracted a decent number of attendees but kept the mood lively and upbeat, which is remarkable given that the show is, well, all about dead people.
Electronic Transaction Association
The highlight at the ETA show was a clever little integrated program for TransFirst, dreamt up by The Trade Group. In response to the recession, TransFirst urged attendees to "Put Your Game Face On," a clever tagline for the exhibit's boxing-themed integrated program. The giveaway was a copy of the New York Times "Highlights in Boxing" edition (a pretty good fit for this show's mostly male audience), and visitors who stopped by the booth could register to win a trip to return to Vegas on May 2, and attend the World Junior Welterweight Title Match between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton.
Overall, despite my aching back and blistered feet, the best part of my trip was seeing business being done at five different shows serving five very different industries. Nine exhibit halls, three venues, and more than 2,300 exhibits later, I left Vegas feeling pretty dang tired. But as I boarded my plane, I was equally optimistic that our industry is still alive and kicking - even at the funeral show. e