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Editorial: NPE 2003: measures of success

July 1, 2003

3 Min Read
Editorial: NPE 2003: measures of success

MSnyder.jpgNotwithstanding the state of the overall economy, NPE came out smelling like a rose. How is this possible? Let us consider some measures of success.

Before the show, a friend in the business called and asked whether I thought the show would be a success. I was appalled at the question. How could one say that any show was going to be either a success or a failure and just let it go at that? I suspect that we spend a lot of time thinking in such black-and-white terms, but we shouldn?t.

?Attendance? figures. It turned out that the question centered around attendance figures. Given the current state of the economy, would attendance numbers meet or exceed those of the previous show, NPE 2000?

Here we get into comparisons. For what it?s worth, SPI doesn?t collect "attendance" records. What it collects are "registration" figures. Everyone who attends the show must register to get in, but any number can, and probably do, register in advance and never show up. That means that "registration" figures are undoubtedly significantly larger than actual "attendance" figures. No matter how such numbers are generated, they can be compared from show to show if the methods are the same. Therefore, we can compare the 90,000 or so registrants at NPE 2000 with about 63,000 at NPE 2003. Purely by the numbers, NPE 2003 would appear to have been a disaster.

Not so. Ironically, most exhibitors benefitted from reduced attendance. We don?t have access to specific lists, but the anecdotal evidence is that processors sent their most important personnel to do business.

One exhibitor, Tim Triplett, CEO of American MSI, took exception to that view. He expressed some regret that the attendees did not include more production-floor workers, saying that his company sells by building relationships, starting with either management or labor, without prejudice. That approach deserves wider consideration.

Visitor motives. Those who came faced exhibitors who had temporarily gone into a state of shock at the prospect that they were actually going to be doing business at the show, not just enduring a week of empty talk. Of course, not all of the deals concluded at the show originated there. Also, some deals launched at the show will not come to fruition for months. Others will cave in altogether. But the consensus was that a high percentage of the visitors came to do business, and a significant number of deals processed during the show will result in bona fide business transactions.

Being there. Just being there is one form of success. ?Don?t just stand there, do something!? reflects a common Western society perspective. The Eastern alternative, attributed to Confucius, says, ?Don?t just do something, stand there!? Maybe the latter is more appropriate to shows. An exhibitor who is just standing there seemingly doing nothing is in fact accessible to attendees who may want to ask questions or pursue business deals.

Several materials companies chose not be be there at all. We wonder whether they might have decided differently, had they known how things would turn out.

Milacron chose a ?virtual? image-intensive exhibit. Never underestimate Milacron. In this case, it had its cake and ate it, too. One can debate the effectiveness of the virtual exhibits, but in any case, attendees could view actual Milacron machines in operation at other booths or from plants via video transmission.

Expectations. It appears that exhibitor expectations have more to do with the ?success? of a show than any objective factor. If you expect a lot and are let down, that feels like failure. If you expect little or nothing, and are surprised when good things happen, that is a success. ?We had no expectations, no expectations, no expectations,? one exhibitor told me. It was repetitious, almost a mantra. By midweek, his entire perspective had changed.

Using NPE as a barometer, we should all consider raising our expectations at least a little bit for the the plastics processing industry?s future well-being.

Merle R. Snyder

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