Commentary & Analysis
On Trade Shows and the Trade Itself
By Pete Rivard I was as pumped about working my first few trade shows as I would have been had I just run off to join the circus.
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: July 19, 2005
By Pete Rivard I was as pumped about working my first few trade shows as I would have been had I just run off to join the circus. Looking back, I'm not sure the difference is all that great. June 23, 2005 -- Print '05 takes over Chicago's McCormick Place this September 9th-15th (and longer if you're one of the unfortunates sentenced to the set-up and tear down routine). By my count, I've worked sixteen trade shows so far, including four Graph Expo/Print's and one DRUPA ('90). At DRUPA I was assigned my own interpreter. She spoke all the common European tongues and could make herself understood in Japanese and Arabic. Astonishing talent. There was a model train loop circling the top of the booth on which a car was added every time the booth proprietors sold a piece of equipment, with the buyer's name printed boldly on the side. At the beginning of the show a single engine merrily sprinted around the booth circumference. By the end of the show's second week two engines back to back could barely manage a respectable crawl as they hauled a trainload of sales so long that the forward engine threatened to rear end its own caboose. I was as pumped about working my first few trade shows as I would have been had I just run off to join the circus. Looking back, I'm not sure the difference is all that great. Major trade shows feature large and gaudy main acts and the full range of sideshow attractions. Half the underemployed actors and street hustlers in town seem to find work hawking prepress solutions, software and presses they've never actually run. (And speaking of hustlers, the fastest-talking graduate from my prepress class of 2004 was there in the Canon booth at Graph Expo last October, demonstrating the ORIS color RIP, and doing a solid job of it.) Later on, as I became the booth veteran, I would inform the first-timers that rookies don't sit, and they were to fetch coffee on demand for the veterans. They had to stand the entire day to prove how tough they were--or find someone who would warn them not to listen to Rivard. There is no better venue to look, touch and experience the full range of products for whatever your business needs. The reason the major trade shows still seem to work is that there is no better venue to look, touch and experience the full range of products for whatever your business needs. At AIIM/OnDemand in Philadelphia I looked at and demo'd every black and white digital press that we were considering for my college's Print Services Center, even though I had already had personal demonstrations of them at various Twin Cities locations. I was also able to lob the same questions at trade show demo personnel that I had already put to their local sales people, just to see if the answers were the same. So, the recommendation that I eventually kicked up to our bean counters was as fully informed as possible and well worth the costs associated with having me there. As an educator in this trade, I also look to the trade shows to represent the print career to the students wandering the aisles. The trade show is a great opportunity to get students good and pumped about their career choice, if they are already graphics majors, and thinking seriously about the trade if they're still in high school. The conflict for the trade show worker in this respect is that deals need to be closed and real prospects developed to pay for the booth and the ancillary food and lodging. None of those students is going to pull out the checkbook and tell you to crate up the 6-color Komori or the iGen. Not even with the show special discount. Nonetheless, as a veteran demo dog, I know I always took time to try and send students on their way with a few reasons to regard print as a cool way to spend one's working life. The trade show is a great opportunity to get students good and pumped about their career choice Print is an industry with no consensus either inside the trade or outside regarding what it is and whether it's a legitimate career choice with a real future. The US Department of Education classifies Print as part of the Arts, AV Technology and Communications cluster, one of sixteen career clusters it has identified (http://www.careerclusters.org/). Across town in our nation's capital, the US Census Bureau lumps Printing in the Manufacturing category (http://www.census.gov/epcd/naics02/def/NDEF323.HTM - N32311) . Representatives from neither group appear inclined to answer email enquiries on why that's the case and whether or not they plan on talking to each other. Insert your own government inefficiencies joke here. We should all give some thought to what we want Print 05 to say about the industry to the young and impressionable talent that fans out across the floor at McCormick Place in September, the beginning of the school year. Give the next generation some of your time, if you're working the show, and a volunteer moment if you're a visitor. Load them down with press sheets, pens, CD's and whatever other paraphernalia you've got. And maybe bring some extra business cards to hand out as well. Tell them to give you a call sometime. You might be talking to a future colleague. Maybe even someone that one day you will inform that rookies don't sit. Please offer your feedback to Pete. He can be reached at: email@example.com.