S. Jensen
S Jensen Conexpo2020 Festival Lot Overview 6329e7366afa7

Trade Shows Still Provide Business Value

Sept. 21, 2022
In-person events provide the opportunity for face-to-face networking and conversations which can lead to new technology solutions.

After the global pandemic put a halt on in-person events  and continues to pose some challenges — many conferences and trade shows moved to virtual offerings. This provided those in the fluid power and related industries the opportunity to continue meeting with one another but in a safe manner. 

With so many tools now available to enable virtual events to take place, many wondered if there would be a return to in-person versions. The costs to attend an event are lower with a virtual option as there is no need to pay for meals, hotel, or other travel expenses. For some it is also easier to attend a virtual event you can log in and out of throughout the work day as you have time. 

I recall when the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA) began holding its Fluid Power Industrial Consortium (FPIC) quarterly seminars virtually that one of the association's leaders told me they were seeing a higher attendance rate than when held in person. Now, for the most part, all of the FPIC seminars are held virtually.

This type of event, focused mostly on presentations from industry experts, lends itself well to a virtual option; and the platform NFPA uses to host the seminars makes it easy to network with other attendees during break periods. 

Networking is an important part of the conference and trade show experience which cannot always be duplicated in a virtual format. And it is evident this is an aspect which has been missed as in-person events have ramped up since mid-2021. At every event I've attended since 2021 — while at times lighter in attendance than in years past given challenges with COVID remain — there have been conversations about how great it is to be meeting people in person again.  

A Busier 2022 Travel Season

This year has seen a greater return to in-person events with many which were held virtually or cancelled in early 2021 returning in 2022. NFPA's two major events, the Annual Conference and Industry & Economic Outlook Conference (IEOC), saw strong attendance this year it was noted during both conferences. 

I have also witnessed a return to in-person media events. While these began to come back in 2021, it seems there have been even more in 2022. Virtual events can have their benefits, but it's never quite the same as being able to be face to face with a new product or speak with the people developing a technology right then and there. And many companies are clearly seeing the value of this as they return to holding their own events or exhibiting at shows. 

The fall event season has also kicked into high gear. I had the opportunity to attend the first U.S. iVT Expo, an event focused solely on the off-highway mobile equipment industry, at the end of August. The exhibit floor was well attended and many exhibitors expressed their happiness with the turnout as they were having good discussions and appreciated being able to meet with people in person after many in the industry had not been able to as much over the past 2 years. 

Our colleagues at Machine Design recently attended the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), which made a return after 4 years due to its biennial scheduling and being cancelled in 2020. Their report from the show was that it was well attended and beneficial to have the chance to meet and speak with so many people in person again. 

READ MORE: IMTS Returns to Address Key Manufacturing Issues

Additional events which took place last week include The Battery Show, while this week sees the return of IAA Transportation (formerly known as IAA Commercial Vehicles) in Hanover and SAE COMVEC in Indianapolis. Others to come which also have applicability for the fluid power and motion control industries include bauma and Pack Expo International. Fall tends to be a busy time for events, and this year it feels especially so after the past 2 years. 

Read our compilation of products introduced at recent events as well as those scheduled to be introduced at upcoming trade shows.

Why Are Trade Shows Important?

Organizers of the International Fluid Power Exposition (IFPE), which is set to take place in March 2023, recently held a webinar during which it discussed the upcoming event and what industry trends would be on display. It was noted over 2,000 exhibitors are already registered for IFPE and the co-located CONEXPO/CON-AGG and over 100,000 attendees are currently expected, indicating excitement for this triennial event. 

READ MORE: Registration Opens for IFPE 2023

At one point during the webinar, moderator Jake Hall, better known as The Manufacturing Millennial, asked John Rozum, Senior Director at the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) — owner of the CONEXPO and IFPE shows — and show director for IFPE, why trade shows are still important today and why companies and engineers should attend them. 

Rozum said at various points over the years people have said trade shows are dead because of the technology available to replace them, and that we are coming out of one of those times now. People realize virtual is not the same experience which is pushing people back to the show floor. 

In addition, there is a need to see things in person particularly for those in the construction industry (the focus for CONEXPO) as the equipment is so large and there is value in being able to walk around and touch the equipment. "You can do your research online. You can do all your planning. You can have have those initial conversations, but it really comes down to getting face to face with the people who are not only selling but also making...these products," so questions can be asked and answered right then and there he said. 

At AEM's first trade show since 2020, The Utility Expo held in fall of 2021, Rozum said "it was clear that this is something that the industry really needs to continue to support because the demand is there on all sides."

Hall added that he sees trade shows being more productive after the COVID lull as people want to learn about the new technologies available and actually have applications in which to utilize those technologies. "Networking is such a powerful tool," he said which can best happen at an in-person event. 

Eric Lanke, President and CEO of NFPA which co-owns IFPE, said during the webinar that a unique aspect of IFPE and other component-related shows is that attendees are not buying the model shown on the exhibit floor as they might with a large piece of equipment. "You [have] to talk with the engineers about customized applications of this technology [on display] to your needs because the technology itself is so customizable," he said. "You need to have that connection, that engineering-level discussion and that only can happen face to face in so many cases."

The industry has transformed to a point where more customized solutions are being developed and companies are bringing technology to market because customers have asked for it said Hall. And this has come about because of the ability to have face-to-face conversations about what is needed at trade shows and other events.

Most people I've spoken to over the past 2 years feel there will likely be a combination of in-person and virtual events going forward which I think will be beneficial. This will provide the opportunity for in-person networking where necessary while also allowing for chances to learn about what is occurring in the industry and benefiting from reductions in travel time and costs. 

We want to hear from you! 

Which types of events do you prefer, in-person or virtual or a mix of both? What events taking place yet in 2022 and 2023 are you most excited about? How beneficial are in-person events to you and your business?

Let us know! Email me at [email protected] or reach out to us on social media

Twitter: @TechnlgyEditor or @PowerMotionTech

LinkedIn: @PowerMotionTech

About the Author

Sara Jensen | Executive Editor, Power & Motion

Sara Jensen is executive editor of Power & Motion, directing expanded coverage into the modern fluid power space, as well as mechatronic and smart technologies. She has over 15 years of publishing experience. Prior to Power & Motion she spent 11 years with a trade publication for engineers of heavy-duty equipment, the last 3 of which were as the editor and brand lead. Over the course of her time in the B2B industry, Sara has gained an extensive knowledge of various heavy-duty equipment industries — including construction, agriculture, mining and on-road trucks —along with the systems and market trends which impact them such as fluid power and electronic motion control technologies. 

You can follow Sara and Power & Motion via the following social media handles:

X (formerly Twitter): @TechnlgyEditor and @PowerMotionTech

LinkedIn: @SaraJensen and @Power&Motion

Facebook: @PowerMotionTech

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