You have to wonder about the continued health of trade shows. That’s not to suggest they’re going away soon, not the big ones anyway. These shows have strong educational and professional accreditation components planned around them.
But in these uncertain economic times, and with consumers (including business people attending trade shows) scrutinizing the need for every purchase (including travel), it stands to reason suppliers are looking hard and long about the level of their participation in trade shows — indeed if some of the shows they formerly supported continue to make economic sense to them, at all.
This trend isn’t new. The merging of the PLANET Green Industry Expo with the OPEI EXPO several years ago was a good example of what will likely become an accelerating trend, especially if this economy doesn't start brightening. And soon. You can’t blame manufacturers and suppliers for putting their resources where they feel they get the best return. Moving equipment and materials from place to place, and staffing show booths with grinning reps is expensive.
And there's another factor at work. It's changing the way many of us get our information.
The emergence of online networking and communication gives experts and educators an avenue to present information inexpensively and with relative ease via webinars and online video. It's no longer so necessary for folks to hop on a plane and sit in a classroom at a conference to get information. Why travel halfway across the country to learn about the latest advances in weed controls or see the newest mowers, when you can get the information in your den?
Yes, trade shows and conferences are still vital for people to kick tires, get face-to-face, make deals and trade ideas. Nothing can replace that.
And having attended my share of them over the years, I sincerely hope that they remain a part of everybody’s program. . . But as Dylan sang — “The times, they are a changin’.”
(What got me thinking about this was an enewsletter from the United Kingdom that I received this morning. It reported that in spite of equipment manufacturers Toro, John Deere and Jacobsen Ransomes not exhibiting in the Jan. 20-22 trade show known as BTME (Harrogate Week), the show had a lot of “buzz.” Was the publication just being polite?) — Ron Hall