How Can We Get the Most Out of Trade Association Meetings?

I just got back last week from the ISA (Industrial Supply Association) Show in San Antonio, and I have to tell you, if I were a manufacturer, I’d have to think about what I was getting out of that show. Since we represent manufacturers that go to these types of meetings, I thought I’d bring up the subject for some serious conversation.

In theory, it’s a place where manufacturers and their distribution counterparts come together via a format of speed dating where the manufacturer requests meetings with distributors (both existing customers and potentials). Like anything else, there are no shows for appointments. The booth program is a two-day affair and while the traffic was light on the first day, it was almost non-existent the second day.

If I was a distributor and could talk to as many suppliers as I could in a period of a few days, I would think they would want to take advantage of it. The manufacturers, as in most associations, foot the bills. They have to bring in product, booths and their associated expenses. What’s most disturbing is that the ratio of manufacturers to distributors is probably 10 to 1.

I don’t have the answer and I’m not trying to pick on ISA. STAFDA, NAEDNAHAD and many more face the same dilemma. There’s got to be a better way in a shorter period of time to make the most out of these meetings. Back in the day, these meetings were a place to showcase new products and programs, but with internet and all the other tools we have, I would hope at least your current customers would know about anything new.

I do recall that the fall meetings in Chicago for a day and a half at the airport were both efficient and successful. I believe it was due in part because the distributors were in the booth and you did your speed dating, but only the roles were reversed. NAED does this at their regional meetings, and as far as I can tell, the manufacturers like the format.

Any suggestions on how we can get these distributor/supplier get togethers to be better for all parties involved?

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  1. Michelle Marquard

    National Tooling and Machining Association is hosting our Purchasing Fair in Novi/MI on June 13th. These events take an extreme amount of planning but our Association has been doing these for over 25 years and they have been very successful. These events are starting to do a full turn as Suppliers have too many jobs and Distributors are needing those to do the work. Normally if there is a fall off it is due to the Buyers not showing at the event now it if planned right it is very important for them to be there and very cost effective.

  2. Nicole Bojic

    Hi John,
    We hear this question a lot from our clients. One solution we offer is a mobile events app which serves many purposes including connecting attendees, personalizing agendas allowing real-time feedback through surveys, live audience response and a private discussion forum. At a recent event, our client used the app to bring all of their vendor partners together and saw a 85% engagement rate! The great thing about mobile apps is that attendees can use their own devices and are already comfortable with this technology. Feel free to email me and I would be happy to share some other engagement tips.

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