Attending trade shows has been one of the most effective ways of becoming immersed in an industry since the practice became popular during the last half of the 20th Century. Show attendees (of any trade show) cannot help but become intimately familiar with current trends affecting their markets. But even more importantly, trade shows are one of the quickest ways to discover opportunities that can be exploited within an industry and its various markets. And while some trade shows serve broad mainstream markets such as the food industry, others serve focused niche markets, such as the graphics industry.
While the concept of a trade fair traces its historical roots to some time during the Middle Ages with the arrival of the merchant class, the modern version of a trade show event has become sophisticated, specialized and much more efficient in delivering information than its medieval counterpart.
Even though during the 1970s and 1980s a rising number of industry trade shows were getting a reputation for being a good tax write-off while providing an opportunity to get away from home for some serious partying, that reputation faded as many business owners came to understand that a good return on investment–whether exhibiting or attending–depended on paying attention to business.
By the 1990s, trade shows were seen as “must attend” events throughout the economy because that was where business owners met their suppliers and their peers “face-to-face.” At these events they were able to compare each company’s offerings to the competition. At these events, they found people who had the credentials to explain new products, who could offer expert training in specialty skills and techniques as well as general business acumen. Intense as they are, the value of such concentrated information focus proved itself beyond measure. In fact, the value of trade shows grew not only in the eyes of many business owners, but also in the eyes of many others who became a new generation of entrepreneurs who were interested in marketing and expanding their own new and improved skills.
National Business Media, parent company of The NBM Show, began producing trade shows for the graphics markets in 1990. The NBM Show has weathered a few name changes, but has always been dedicated to serving the graphics industry since its inception. It is presented by NBM’s leading industry publications: Awards & Engraving, Printwear, and Sign & Digital Graphics magazines; and it caters to a broad cross-section of the industry. The NBM Show’s audience includes established companies who have been involved in graphics businesses for many years; small start-up companies who have made the commitment to a graphics business and are in search of more information; and young entrepreneurs who are considering entering the trade who are researching the graphics industry.
In a word, the trade show experience is all about opportunities. And the opportunities are abundant, starting at the entrance to the convention center. Many people begin the long journey of establishing and strengthening their career in this first march along the walkway to the exhibit hall. It’s as common to see people stop to chat with a complete stranger as it is to see others renew acquaintances they’ve met at previous shows. And these encounters are the beginning of the learning experience of the trade show because they form life-long relationships that persevere not only in business dealings, but also in life.
Beyond the convention center promenade, opportunities continue to emerge and become evident to trade show attendees and exhibitors alike. Let’s take a look at the opportunities a typical show attendee might find in a search to learn more about the graphics industry in 2012…
Education Station is a program that will again offer attendees hands-on instructions in selected exhibitor booths at The NBM Show in 2012. According to Education Manager Linda Eddleman, 65 exhibitors have already agreed to participate in Education Stations in 2012. These sessions provide a unique first-hand glimpse into the manufacturer’s mind set, allowing attendees to ask questions that can be answered immediately by the people best qualified to provide reliable information. And while they are focused on the exhibitor’s products, these sessions are offered at convenient times during show hours and are open and free to all attendees.
As one moves around the hall, there is the unmistakable sound of commerce: a merchant not unlike his medieval counterpart is explaining to an interested buyer the features of a new design software; another explains a new material that resists fading in the sun; yet another demonstrates a new environmentally friendly inkjet ink. There is always plenty to talk about: new styles and materials for signs and banners; new jacket, shirt and tie fashions; new trophies, plaques and promotional gifts that are in demand and ready for personalized decor.
These conversations are the backbone of the trade show educational experience, the front line, if you will. And they are usually never planned. There is not an agenda, no script, nothing other than a person on one side with a question and a person on the other side with an answer.
But that’s only the beginning of the learning experience. The trade show education evolution winds its way through the three main marketplaces within the exhibit hall—representing Sign & Digital Graphics (sign making and digital printing), Printwear (decorated apparel), and Awards & Engraving (trophies, plaques and promotions)—and resurfaces in classrooms where years of practice have been refined into concise hour-long classes that are designed to engage and enhance the development and experience of the attendee who wants to get something more from being at a trade show.
At press time, 30 hour-long classes, five workshops and three panel discussions are scheduled from Wednesday through Saturday at each of The NBM Shows taking place in Dallas, Indianapolis, Long Beach and Philadelphia.
A snapshot of the topics (see an updated list at www.TheNBMShow.com/education
) reveals a faculty of professionals prepared with fine-tuned presentations covering the inside track of the graphics industry.
Show and Tell
Past attendees have been delighted to discover an unexpected world of handy tips and tricks alongside a world of highly specialized and technical information presented at trade show classes.
Carla Buchanan, for instance, owner of Business Brandings, which is based in Orange, Calif., attended The NBM Show in Long Beach in August 2011. Buchanan says her intention was “just to look” but she was encouraged and intrigued by the possibilities she encountered and was pleased to find a world of information that she was able to incorporate into her business.
“At the show, I learned about sublimation printing, bought a printer, a heat press, and supplies, and now I can offer sublimated products to my customers,” says Buchanan. “They love the name tags!”
While perusing the exhibit hall, Buchanan also discovered several items from Digital Art Solutions including their art system, a cutter, and a rhinestone setting system that together solve what she calls “one of my biggest problem areas: art.”
Buchanan also attended several classes, including Raymond Chapman’s class on layout and design, where she says Chapman began by reminding students to keep the basics in mind when doing design work for clients.
The entire package of classes, new relationships and the opportunity to learn about the latest offerings from leading manufacturers has allowed Carla Buchanan to apply many valuable new techniques and strategies to her business, which she says ultimately allows her to better serve her customers.
And that is why, again in August 2012, Buchanan’s business plans include attending The NBM Show in Long Beach, Calif., where she will not only take more classes to follow up on the ones she took in 2011, but she will take other classes that will allow her to expand further into new and different specialty niches within the graphics industry.
It’s all about opportunity…
For more information visit www.TheNBMShow.com.