Too Many Trade Show Cities?
May 20, 1997 12:00 PM, David G. Meyer
Everyone hates trade shows.
Hear me out. I'm not here to dump on shows; in fact, I have a great solution for the uncertainty and hassle of that necessary evil. You're going to love trade shows again.
But seriously, doesn't everyone hate trade shows?
Well, maybe not everyone. If you don't have to fly to a strange city, fight the crowds for a limo to the hotel, deal with bad weather, check in, scramble over to the convention area and hope everything is where it's supposed to be in time for equipment load-in and setup, I suppose trade shows could actually be considered fun. When's the last time you remember things going that smoothly?
Clearly, our industry is not interested in reducing the number of trade shows. When I attended my first trade show in 1974, many of today's shows didn't exist. NSCA, Infocomm, ISC and CSVS were not yet born; NAMM and AES were the big events of the year in the music and sound industry. However, in 1996, I attended trade shows in Los Angeles, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Laguna Beach, Lake Tahoe and Palo Alto. There were also trade shows in Nashville, New York and Las Vegas that my company participated in but I did not attend, not to mention all the shows that neither I nor my company had any part of. Our tiny little low-voltage electronics industry hosts an inordinate number of national trade shows a year, not to mention all the regional shows.
Yikes. No wonder everyone hates trade shows.
What is it, really, that we hate? The travel? Being separated from our families? The hassles of hotels and convention centers? The price of good food? The price of bad food? Nah. What we really hate is the uncertainty of the trade show surroundings. Will there be enough hotel rooms? Is there anything to do after show hours? Are there enough flights to get everyone to the show? Is there any good food, at any price? In short, is the show going to be in a place where people will want to go enough to be willing to spend hard-earned company and personal dollars to get there?
The city that hosts the show is a lot of the problem. For example, anyplace you go for a trade show, there is a price advantage in air fares and hotel charges for staying over a Saturday night. Some destination cities -- Las Vegas, Orlando, Atlantic City, Anaheim -- already have a great deal of weekend trade all year, so the weekend price advantage to those cities is quite small, and mid-week trade shows would be practical for everybody. If the trade shows, all of which are weekend shows now (and who wants to lose a weekend with their families?), started to migrate back to mid-week, the quality of life for those who must attend lots of them would improve dramatically. The host city can either make it an enjoyable experience that doesn't break your bank or make it the usual experience.
I have a simple solution: Have all trade shows in Las Vegas.
Think about it for a minute. Having all our trade shows in Las Vegas solves all the dilemmas that everyone faces. The weather is nice virtually all the time, so you wouldn't have to worry about what to pack. The airport is big enough to accommodate crowds of travelers, and goodness knows there are plenty of hotel rooms.
Something to do? Who doesn't enjoy the fast-paced night life of Las Vegas, the shows, the gambling? The new hotel-casinos are being built with families in mind, so you can bring kids and know that they can be safely tucked away in any number of amusement areas and video game arcades. And, if you are just the slightest bit adventurous, the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead are just a short drive away.
Sold yet? Wait, it gets better. In some cities, just getting your equipment from loading dock to booth feels a lot like a shakedown: money is changing hands, but you're never quite sure whose hand is in your pocket. The convention centers blame the unions; the unions blame the convention staff; the exhibitors just know it's costing a lot of money and want more control over who does construction and wiring for the booth or demo room. Wouldn't we all rather manage our own setup and teardown, and be at the mercy of only those delivering our crates, rather than at the mercy of everyone? Some convention centers simply have work rules that are exhibitor-friendly, and others don't. Vegas does.
In fact, why don't we make our lives easy and have all the manufacturers who go to our industry's trade shows rent space in Las Vegas to keep their show stock? There could be one giant warehouse full of show stuff that everyone could share space in, and we wouldn't ship materials all over the country at the last minute, in a futile attempt to have that last bit of the booth or a crucial piece of demo equipment arrive in time for an incredibly short setup window under extremely tight and frustrating circumstances.
We could all buy condominiums for people to live in during the shows, so that not all of our hard-earned money ends up in the hands of the hotels. And while we're at it, let's all hire someone to do nothing but manage the equipment site in Las Vegas, so that whenever we go to a show, we'll have someone already there who knows exactly where everything is, and who will have had lots of prep time before the show to ensure everything is where it's supposed to be, when it's supposed to be. We could form a giant committee, call it the Las Vegas Low-Voltage Industry Trade Show Management Council, or the LVLVITSMC; you know, a name everyone can remember easily.
So there you have it, lots of sound reasons to support my bold initiative. Are you with me, folks? After all, my reasons are purely for the good of our industry. I'm just trying to help all manufacturers ensure that there are people to look at all the latest gadgets we have to offer our customers at each of these trade shows.
Well, maybe there are one or two other reasons for having all shows in Las Vegas. I live in Northern California, so the trip to Las Vegas is only about an hour by plane. It also keeps me in my own time zone. Las Vegas just happens to be part of my region, so not only do I already travel there regularly, but the dollars that come into Las Vegas for conventions help the local economy. That helps keep the local contractors busy, so they buy more of my products.
The musings of a brilliant strategist, or the rantings of an overly traveled road warrior? You be the judge.