The IPI Show starts Sunday afternoon with the Exhibition Hall opening on Monday. The question is, are these events (IPI, NPA, PIE etc) training sessions and seminars with the Exhibition hall attached, or are they Exhibitions with training sessions attached. We put on PIE and tout that we have the best training sessions and of course everyone who attends agrees with us. However, at the last show we had an experiment – we let people attend the exhibition free and charged for the sessions. We had more people attend the exhibition than attend the sessions. If our sessions are so good, why didn’t more people attend?
I will posit that If you survey the exhibit hall at the IPI show next week, you will find whatever number of people on the floor that the IPI will count as attending the event. However if you count the people in the sessions, that number will not come close to equaling the number that actually visited the exhibit hall.
Why is this? Are they at the tables, or resting in their rooms, or working on projects from “back home?” I suggest that people come to these events to see the products and to network. Those things happen on the exhibit hall floor. I did an informal survey at the NPA, PIE, Parkex, Intertraffic, and IPI events this past year (and will continue it next week) and when I asked the question, the vast majority of attendees told me they came to the event for the exhibit floor. Do they attend parties, the Keynote session, the final extravaganza? Sure – but their focus is on technology, and meeting people who can help them in the future.
One of the most popular events at PIE this year was our speed networking – like speed dating, you get two minutes one on one with a stranger. Enough time to exchange business cards and make a connection. Your virtual “rolodex” expands and you have a source for information when nine months from now, you have an issue. Someone you can call and will take your call.
The same thing happens on the Exhibit Hall Floor – you meet new people, and renew old acquaintances.
Take a look around the floor in Las Vegas next week. There are as many discussions taking place in the aisles as there are in the booths. In fact I know one person who told me that he met more people and did more business in the lobby outside the exhibit hall than standing in his booth.
Is this a good or bad thing? Neither. It is just what is. Sure hundreds of people will go to the sessions and many will come away with good information. No doubt. But I think that if you asked each person what they visualized before they arrived at the show, they would describe the exhibit hall, and not a classroom.