Editorial: It's Show Time!

By Len Monheit

Another SupplySide is done, and now its time for the follow-up. Or are you one of those individuals traveling from show to show in what often seems like an endless journey, as the workload back in the office and the leads accumulate?

If we use this past week as an example, some 270 exhibitors and several thousands of attendees came to Secaucus, New Jersey for the early part of the week, while another 1500 exhibitors and thousands of store operators went to the FMI (food Marketing Institute) and Fancy Foods shows in Chicago over the weekend, and yet another group attended the OTA’s all Things Organic Conference in Austin, Texas. Next week 300 exhibitors plus attendees will gather in Geneva for Vitafoods International. Also next week, Natural Products Expo Asia is being held in Hong Kong. Nutrimarket in San Francisco was cancelled, otherwise that would have run the week after. For those trying to take it all in, it makes for a frantic couple of weeks.

In June, NNFA Marketplace 2002 goes from June June 7th to 9th in Las Vegas and then the IFT (Institute of Food Technologists) show runs from the 16th to the 19th in Anaheim, California, so yet another busy month is shaping up. And there are numerous other events and programs scheduled, frequently conflicting and putting pressure on the schedules of those who must attend some or all of these events to stay current and ahead of the competition. Companies are facing tough decisions--in June and other months when many events look promising.

But then things slow down for the summer months, or do they? When does the follow up get done? How are you supposed to make decisions and decide not only which events to attend, but whom to send? And if you’re a small company, the costs can be crippling as can the resources needed to do a good job. After all, if you’ve made the investment to attend, you need to get the most out of it, especially if you’re an exhibitor. And then there are the education sessions, often regurgitation of previous presentations, but just often enough, there’s a critical nugget that’s presented that can change the future of your company, research and market position.

At SupplySide, we spoke with hundreds of people about the show itself and their future plans. A sold out show floor and solid first day traffic had most exhibitors feeling positive. An amazing number of food company representatives, sprinkled with natural products and pharmaceutical personnel made for quite a mix walking the show floor. It also pointed out an increasing dilemma facing the industry as boundaries continue to disappear. Sellers in this industry, on or off the show floor, are finding some of the best opportunities to reach buyers are by reaching outside what has traditionally been a very narrow vertical. Show organizers recognize that they need to draw these non-traditional buyers in increasing numbers and the shows now have a broader appeal. The overlap between sectors is increasing; opportunities for cross-education abound which makes for some very interesting shows and events.

Not only is it difficult to make event decisions, but how do you measure event success. If, like some, you have limited objectives, then obviously you have no basis to measure your event performance. Often your plans are a repeat of last year’s program, and especially in this business environment, that can be dangerous. In our informal review of the recent shows we found several success parameters:

  • Met with ‘x’ key clients
  • Met with ‘y’ new hot leads
  • Gathered ‘z’ new names
  • Met with distributors
  • Launched new product successfully
  • Booked ‘$$’ critical new business
  • Made all my meetings
  • Made all my meetings on time
  • Attended the parties and receptions
  • Gave out all my literature
  • Left quickly
  • Survived

Which leads to a few questions:
How do you measure success?
What are you going to do differently next time?

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