Just as the first sighting of a red-breasted robin heralds the arrival of spring, the recent staging of World of Concrete in New Orleans and the International Home Builders' Show in Atlanta this month signals the start of a new construction convention season.
While most of the expositions and venues will be familiar to most convention-goers, the mood overshadowing this year's convention activities will be different than seasons past. The events beginning Sept. 11 have left most Americans feeling edgy to one degree or another, and with good reason, as there's no shortage of things to fret over: economic uncertainties, travel anxieties, or the spectre of terrorists or loonies hiding in the bushes.
Understandably, our current state of edginess does not bode well for trade show operators, many of which depend upon exposition revenues as an important source of income. Show attendance is expected to be down in keeping with the reduced levels of air travel. Lower attendance can result in not only lost on-site revenues from attendees, but bookings for future shows can also be negatively affected.
It would be easy to be unsympathetic to the plight of show operators if they were nothing but heartless corporate entities, but in actuality, most shows are run by industry organizations, many of which serve an important purpose--to advance and promote our trade. In our industry, we can count a number of such vital trade organizations, including such laudable standouts as the Northwest Wall and Ceiling Bureau, Carolina Lath and Plastering Contractors Association, Texas Lathing & Plastering Contractors Association and Florida Wall and Ceiling Contractors Association. If trade show participation falls off, these are the groups that will feel the pinch. And our industry would ultimately suffer as a result of it.
While I expect that many readers have already made up their minds whether or not to attend this year's upcoming shows, I would ask those who've opted not to travel to rethink their decisions. There's still time to change plans: airfares are down and convention exhibitors will just love to see you there.
If air travel is your concern, consider foregoing national shows and try to attend at least one regional or local show. While these smaller exhibitions may lack some of the size and extravagance of the larger events, many of these shows still deliver top-notch educational programs and informative exhibits, not to mention golf and plenty of other recreational activities. Staying closer to home also makes more sense to those concerned about expenses or taking time away from the shop.
"The regional and the state shows are really where the action is, where the smaller to mid-sized contractors go to have contact with the manufacturers and suppliers," says Wayne James, executive director of the TLPCA. "The smaller shows concentrate more on current problems that the small to midsize contractors face."
NWCB Executive Director Bob Drury agrees that it's important for contractors--especially those worried about the economy--to take advantage of convention opportunities and seek out new products and ideas that will help them grow their businesses.
"The conventions this year should offer people a good format to look at their business and see what other people are doing, and maybe identify other opportunities to get into," advises Drury. "And you can get all of that information from a convention. There's all sorts of avenues to pick up valuable information."