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Lessons Learned From Industrial Trade Shows

With IMTS ongoing this week and other trade shows like NSC, PACK EXPO, Fabtech and STAFDA still to come this year, here's the key things IMPO editor Mike Hockett has learned over the past two years.

I can remember my first industrial trade show experience like it was yesterday.

Granted, it was only two years ago. It was the National Safety Council Expo at the San Diego Convention Center in September 2014, less than two months after I started as an editor for IMPO’s sister publication, Industrial Distribution. Other than the expos at the Wisconsin and Iowa State Fairs, it was my first time in such a setting.

Making the rounds on the show floor, trying to make sure I saw absolutely everything, it was probably the most walking I had ever done over a three-day period. I was completely new to the manufacturing industry. My background had been in sports writing, but I found NSC very interesting.

It was my first time seeing products in fall protection, arc flash, lockout/tagout, the vast array of industrial gloves and many other items in personal protective equipment. Having that experience made me be a quick learner. About a dozen trade shows later, I’m now well-versed in the expectations and no longer walk show floors wide-eyed at everything. But that’s not to say I still don’t find each show interesting.

I’ve picked up on a handful of nuances since that first show. No matter what your title, your company is paying good money to have you represent them at these conferences. Here’s a few quick tips to help you have a productive trade show.

  • Get educated. Besides the opening general session and/or keynote, attend seminars that keep you up-to-date about trends in end markets, materials and technology and regulations to be aware of.
  • Body language helps or hurts booth traffic. I know manning a booth all day gets old fast, but I’m much more likely to stop by a booth with exhibitors who appear inviting than those staring at their phone the whole time.
  • Don’t skip the party. Most shows have an opening or closing party, or both. The hors d'oeuvres are nice, but these parties are also excellent opportunities to network with peers and make new contacts in a more casual setting.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.

Above all, these trade shows are still work. Getting out of the office/factory/warehouse for a few days is nice, but your company is paying good money for you to attend these conferences, no matter what your title. Stay productive. Do something that benefits your company in both business and brand reputation.

I’ll be attending a handful of seminars and workshops at IMTS in Chicago, so my free time on the McCormick Center floor will be limited, but if you’d like me to stop by your booth, shoot me an email. I’ll be Tweeting out pictures of booth visits under the @IMPOmag handle. After that, I’ll once again attend NSC in Anaheim, CA in during Oct. 17-19, and STAFDA in Atlanta during Nov. 6-8.

Additionally, IMPO is always looking for manufacturing companies to profile in our “Onsite” feature each issue. If you think your company, its facility operations and its people would make for a good story, let us know so we can consider making a visit.