In the aftermath of what was undoubtedly a successful industry trade show — ASIS Int'l 2011, September 19-22 in Orlando — I have been inundated with people telling me they missed me at the show. And before the trade show, there were people calling to set up meetings with me at the show. And it's not that I'm immensely popular, just that trade shows have been and remain the industry's premier networking events. If you attend them and are seen, people remember you. If you miss enough of them, people assume you've died or (in the case of a business) gone out of business.
I didn't attend ASIS 2011, and I suspect many of you didn't either. No, I didn't boycott the show, and I think it's a great industry event. But, like you, I have had to focus on why I attend trade shows and how many of them I need to attend. Money doesn't grow on trees, but that's not entirely it. Time doesn't grow on trees either, and I find that is often the more difficult sacrifice.
I attend trade shows, first and foremost to see what's new, what has improved, and determine trends and directions that allow me to guide our clients. I look at large manufacturers and small ones, touch products, and try to judge what is "real." I compare my notes to previous years, to see who keeps their promises and who specializes in "vaporware". I also get a good feel as to how many manufacturers are offering similar products to gain a better understanding of what is truly unique.
Networking is also important. I look for old friends, meet new ones, and put a face to the people I've talked to over the phone throughout the year. Many of the names are familiar, even though the business cards and logos shuffle around a bit. No one admits to listening to gossip, but this rich current of information and speculation has been the source of many truths and half-truths over the years.
Training classes and workshops are also important. There are no other learning opportunities that are as varied in depth and breadth than the education programs offered at ASIS and SIA events and others. There truly is something there for everyone, you're never too old to learn — stop learning, and you'll get old quickly.
But enough is enough. For me, I have found that one major industry show a year is plenty. The stories, products, and business cards don't change often enough for me to justify more than that. So I'm looking forward to ISC West in Las Vegas in the spring. And I only missed the excitement of ASIS a little bit...
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