The most trite conversation at any trade show is the one about the trade show. Are you having a good show?Hows the show been for you?Great talking to you, have a good show!
Those same words come out of my mouth too, but for me trade show banter is akin to talking about the weather; its generic filler conversation, and a pretty poor excuse for real dialogue between people.
At last weeks CEDIA EXPO, however, this particular topic took on a greater sense of importance as we all tried to wrap our brains around the current state of the economy. Everyone wanted to know the truth about show attendance and to find out if business was as bad as it seemed to them back home. The cool thing, though, was that no one was willing to take the bad news laying down.
In fact, not a single manufacturer ever complained to me about having a bad show on account of low attendance or poor quality attendees. There was no doubt that CEDIA had an off year, as evidenced by the Associations official press release stating that more than 25,000 professionals from the industry, attended CEDIA, compared with 29,000 last year. My theory is that when you spend the kind of money it takes to exhibit at any trade show, you will never admit to anyone (except for maybe show management when negotiating your next contract) that you wasted your money on it. Also, no one wants to be the one to admit that no one came to see them just in case their competitor tells a different story.
The business story of the show, for me, was that flat is the new up. But while most were willing to accept current market conditions at face value, almost no one at the CEDIA EXPO was content to take a passive approach to dealing with the downturn. Most visible was SpeakerCrafts controversial booth design, which featured very few product displays and lots and lots of skin. It was simply a colorful setting for in-depth business discussions and pointed tutorials on well-researched best practices. If you arent a SpeakerCraft dealer or are a competitive manufacturer to the Riverside, California, company, this important detail may have been lost on you.
In direct contrast, culturally speaking, to SpeakerCraft was booth neighbor Lutron that featured its typically classy home design booth and buttoned-down staff. The Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, lighting control manufacturer took its own unique approach to the downturn, however, when its team videotaped a booth tour and e-mailed the file to a vast dealer base who couldnt afford to travel to Denver this year.
The point is that stories like these abounded at CEDIA EXPO this year. Everyone expected a down year, but no one was willing to roll over and do nothing about it. During times like these, its definitely not business as usual, and that requires creative thinking by all of us.