While most of us were getting back to the new normal brought upon by 2021 – returning to some of the activities we love (going back to physical events, albeit with new protocols and risk calculations) -, it should be noted that other parts of the world didn’t have this luxury. Indeed, USA and Europe have held most, if not all of their industry events this year, whereas Asia is still coping with all the restrictions of the pandemic, and that includes the cancellation of many events in the region. That being said, whether you are based in Europe or in the USA, there are tips that are universal to everyone attending a 3D printing/AM event. To better prepare for next year’s industry events you are likely to take part in – be it as an exhibitor or a visitor, we would like to share below some of our best practices to make the most of your time & money on the ground.
To be honest, we have been (and sometimes are) on both sides of the coin: the exhibitor and the visitor. Over time, we have been able to create our own guide to making the most of each event, and surviving the biggest of them. Needless to remind that we do not have the full expertise of an event’s organizer, but do they not say that wisdom can only come through experience?
Location & booth features
If you’re a company that often exhibits or is interested in exhibiting on a show, you will probably recognize yourself in the following lines.
It’s easy to get caught in the number of square meters that you will occupy, but do not forget to highlight your location booth number on the booth itself – in addition to other on-site and/or digital marketing tracking. For international shows like Formnext, where the organization and marking inside and outside the halls are thoroughly thought, this may not be a problem. But during conferences and events of a smaller scale, these are things that companies often forget to highlight and it’s easy not to find you.
Also, be aware of your future neighbour or co-exhibit alongside a potential partner. This is something that we found very useful at Formnext. Some companies were exhibiting alongside their (potential) partners, and as a visitor, it was just interesting to see how companies can benefit from each other’s capabilities or expertise.
Booth features: identity and message.
Whether you have a big budget or a small one, your booth should tell who you are without you saying a word; it will tell if you’re a cool person to hang out with or somebody that will require to spend a lot of time with to truly appreciate your qualities; it will tell people who you are and what you do. It’s your company’s soul. No matter what your budget is, please always prioritize quality over quantity.
Furthermore, your booth should highlight the message you would like all visitors to keep in mind – whether they stop by your booth to get to know you or they just notice you while walking through an aisle. The questions your design & marketing teams should try to answer while constructing the booth are: what message do you want to convey? What’s the key highlight people should keep from our presence on X or Y show?
I know it might be difficult for big companies providing a wide range of services, but keep in mind that if the unique message you want to convey can be easily caught through your booth design or what you showcase, then the visitor would be easily interested in discovering the rest of your services – and that’s a win for you.
Food? Water? Chairs? – These vital items for which people will always be grateful.
My granny used to tell us that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. I have always believed that this was only true for women who were looking for a husband (although today […] )…Anyway, this is definitely true for any person visiting you on a big show. Between the long walks across the aisles, the long talks and sometimes the cold – when a show is taking place during winter, believe me, every visitor is eternally grateful when they are proposed a glass of water, a cup of tea or sometimes a sandwich.
Add a chair to that – given the aching feet one often gets after these long walks through the aisles and booths –, and your booth will literally become heaven on earth.
Some companies often installed walled gardens wherein partners and employees are entertained while others are kept out. Please, do not do that as this is the easiest way to make people feel marginalized. An interesting idea might be to invite visitors to drink a cup of coffee while discussing their needs and how you can serve them.
Prior to the show? During the show? After the show? – All are great and welcome!
Prior to the show: announce what you will be showcasing with all relevant details – so that both the journalist and the potential prospect will be interested in seeing your innovation in real life. Crucial tip that is often given second place or no place at all by SMEs is the trade press. Trade press must be one of your best weapons prior, during and after the show. A visitor who does not have any time to stop by your booth will definitely stay informed through the trade press to see what they are missing. A visitor who wants to make their time easy on the exhibition floor will plan their visit by having a look at some of the solutions that could be found on the show. And where will he find them? On industry trade press portals or magazines. So, invest in and maintain your relationships with the most-relevant trade press of the industry.
During the show: well the past couple of years have shown that social media are the best way to create engagement – (and live interviews if you have the opportunity to be selected by one of the trade press conducting this type of onsite activities.) During this Formnext for instance, in the midst of all my meetings, I took some time to play at TRUMPF’s booth. They had installed a 3D printed tower, and people could take a couple of pictures that they could re-share on social media, and win something. Well, I didn’t win anything, but I have a great picture next to a beautiful 3D printed part. Also at Formnext, I stumbled upon an exhibitor that was gifting 3D printed stools built during the show, if they played their game – that is indeed a great way to show the capabilities of your machines in real time.
After the show? Well companies often send a lot of thank-notes by emailing, but I don’t think they are effective unless there is a call to action at the end that will act as a short reminder of what they saw at your booth or an invite to chat with one of your employees. Here again, I can’t help but mention the importance of the trade press that might give a shout out to your products and services. One of the best ways for people to catch up with everything that happened during the show.
If you’re a visitor planning to attend a show, then the lines below are written with you in mind.
Arrive a day early or on the first day of the event.
If you already know you are attending a big show, arrive a day early to acclimatize with your environment and what you will be dealing to/with during your stay. It’s always frustrating when you have to assess everything (transport, drive, interesting places to eat, or whatever) when the show has started. Usually, you don’t have a lot of time to think about those minor topics, but by arriving a day early, you can also better prepare yourself and your pocket will thank you for avoiding all unnecessary and unexpected costs.
If you are attending a small show however, you can arrive on the first day of the event but early in the morning. Small shows often last two or three days, so my advice is to bet everything on the first day(s) of the event.
Comfy shoes – everywhere you go.
If that wasn’t clear enough, one walks a lot on big shows, so no matter what type of shoes you have, you may end up with aching feet by the end of the day. However, if your shoes are comfy enough, with a soft sole, damages may be limited.
Plan your visit but leave room for spontaneous discovery.
As a visitor, you should already know what you’re looking for prior to attending a show – especially big shows. With up to 1 000 companies that often exhibit on international shows, you may waste a lot of time, if you do not plan your visit.
Stay informed on the trade press to know what kind of companies will be exhibiting, read about their products, and maybe take a couple of meetings with those who already raise your interest.
But, but, but,… do not book all your agenda. Otherwise, you will find yourself going from one meeting to another, and you won’t find any time to discover other booths. Maybe the solution you’re looking for, will be at a booth that you didn’t see online. So, leave room for wandering.
Lastly, enjoy yourself!
Did I need to add that? Definitely, yes! Because attending a local show often means travelling to a new region. So, find some time to discover some local peculiarities.
Now, when attending a big show, you may not have that time, but you may have some for networking events and getting to know people of this industry. This is a niche market, and somehow, everyone tends to know everyone – and that’s an opportunity you might have during networking events.
This article has first been published in the 2022 Nov/Dec edition of 3D ADEPT Mag. Remember, you can post free of charge job opportunities in the AM Industry on 3D ADEPT Media or look for a job via our job board. Make sure to follow us on our social networks and subscribe to our weekly newsletter : Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & Instagram ! If you want to be featured in the next issue of our digital magazine or if you hear a story that needs to be heard, make sure to send it to email@example.com