AGRR, Door and Window Manufacturer, Glass Expos, USGlass, Window Film

Road — and Glass — Warriors

It seems like just minutes ago that the kids were heading back to school, the baseball play-offs were weeks away and Kim Kardashian was getting ready for a life of wedded bliss. What a difference two months makes.

The past quartet of fortnights have flown by for our staff as well. That’s because they constitute an annual phenomena known as “trade show season.”

We’ve been everywhere, man: Atlanta, Memphis, Toronto, Nashville, Milan, Seattle and Las Vegas, all since September 10. The Win-door show  in Toronto next week closes out trade show season 2011. While each show had its own distinct style and, in many cases, served different audiences, there were some general show themes that emerged. Specifically:

 1.  People go to trade shows because they have the need for a read. They need a read of the industry, of new products and new people that can only be gained through live interaction. Every survey I have ever seen about attendance cites as one of the most important benefits “networking opportunities.” This is why shows may change but they won’t die.

2.  See me, feel me, touch me? Not so much. Whether it’s because of the economy or the increased acceptance of media such as video and online representations or both, fewer exhibitors are setting up their products on the floor. More are showing video clips, hooking up via the Internet or offering pre- and post-show visits to their plants. This type of hybrid show-and-tell is no longer seen as a disadvantage.

3.  Whether homey or high velocity, each show has its own rhythm. I attended the Association of Millwork Distributors (AMD) Show in Nashville, Tenn., two weeks ago. Even though moulding and millwork producers have been especially hard hit by the economic downturn, it was easy to see how this show is like a family reunion with customers and suppliers coming together once a year. That show was followed by the frenzied pace of the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA), where the average attendee seemed to be a 26-year-old tattooed male car lover. Both groups could not have been more different, yet I bet both groups look forward to THEIR annual trade event.

The backs of the guys from Carolina Stairs were ready for their close-up as they sported their QR tags on their shirts.

4. There’s always something new. There are the ever-present new give-aways, new products and ways to market them. I saw my personal favorite at AMD, where the guys from Carolina Stair literally carried the web on their backs. “People kept coming up and taking pictures of our backs,” said the company’s Matt Edwards.

5.  Travel is torture. I understand and respect the need for safety and screening. But if you travel as much as I do, you see some pretty amazing instances of admirable goals distilled down to hard and fast rules with comical results.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am appreciative of our government’s efforts to keep its citizens safe but some things that I know are designed for my safety make no sense. Couple this with the true torture that the airlines are putting us through and it makes for a pretty unpleasant experience. Since I travel a lot, I tend to ask the same question to the many airline employees I meet. I ask it because I have a hard time believing that the people in charge of it would actually mandate the type of customer experience it has become if they just KNEW how awful it was. My question is always the same.
“Do you think the guy who runs this airline ever actually flies it?” Here are just a few of the answers I’ve received.

  • “Not in a million years.”
  • “I can guarantee you he does not.”
  • “Yes. But only on a great weather days in first class with three assistants on non-stops without luggage… Then he can go on TV and say what a great experience it was.”
  • “No earthly way.”
  • “I don’t know if he does or not, but I do know he doesn’t listen to us” (from a flight attendant).
  • “He says he does but no one’s ever seen him.”
  • “No, he wouldn’t fit in these seats.”

I have been asking this question for about a year now. All these answers are true. I write them down. No one has ever said “Yes.”

A Regionalized Approach

I think this is part of the reason why regional trade shows have become so successful and are expanding so much. People have little desire to put themselves through the air travel gauntlet. And, with times tougher and staffs leaner, leaving the shop to take a few days out of town is not a viable option. Much better to drive a few hours to a two-day event. Maybe stay overnight, learn a ton, see the vendors and head on home. The next regional we are producing is Glass TEXpo ’12, which will be held April 11-12, 2012, in the beautiful city of San Antonio. We and our co-sponsors, the Texas Glass Association, hope you can join us.

We have also chosen a date for Auto Glass Week 2012. It will be held – in trade show season – September 20-22, 2012. We hope to announce the location this week.  (Yes, I know, I know, how can you have a date without a location. It’s a long story but true. Email me if you want to know.)

Theater of the Absurd

I got a fair number of comments about the video last week showing a man accidentally walking through a glass wall. This also led a number of you to forward me similar videos. My personal favorite – and I use the word very loosely – is this one from Chinese  TV. I have always heard about those Chinese TV shows. Watch this and you’ll think two things: first, the codes in China must really be followed strictly and second, why in the world would anyone do this?

Left me speechless too.

Have a good week. See you on the road.


P.S. To view some of our coverage of the events above please visit the sites below.


For Auto Glass Week: glassBYTEs
For SEMA: Window Film

For GlassBuild: USGlass and DWM