My friend Simpson and I
flew to Atlanta last week to attend the annual sporting goods trade event
that is modestly called the "Super Show."
Itís a show that is a must-see for
anyone in the sporting goods business. Unfortunately, that does not
"This is a total waste of my
time," he declared at dinner after the first day. "What am I
It was not an easy question to answer,
but since I had encouraged him to come with me, I figured I had better
"Youíre looking for ideas,"
I said. "You might come up with one little tidbit of an idea which
would easily cover the cost of the trip."
"The only idea Iíve had so far
is that I want nothing to do with the sporting goods business."
I pushed the dinner check toward him,
again happy to have had him come along. "See, you never would have
known that for certain unless you came to this show."
He nodded, knowing I had a point,
meager as it sounded. But more importantly, he knew we were both trade
show junkies and not likely to change.
Itís an addiction that is very
difficult to kick. There is a trade show for every conceivable item ever
produced by mankind. The shows prey on poor souls such as Simpson and
myself, who are endlessly searching for ideas to satiate our
Never mind that we often donít find
any. Itís the search that counts. The trade shows are the cutting edge
of the industry. New trends, new products, new images Ė all are on
display, ready to be stolen.
If you donít go, youíll never know
1) what youíre missing or 2) confirmation that youíre not missing
anything. Itís one of the surefire ways to stay on top of your business
Iíve been to trade shows for gifts,
apparel, amusement parks, shopping centers, visual merchandising, office
products, close-outs, retail services, and (my personal favorite) gourmet
foods, where almost every booth offers free samples.
The anticipation of attending a
trade show is always much more exciting than the actual event. The routine
never varies. The adrenalin flows as you go through the registration
process, people buzzing all around you, and then (in most cases) descend
the escalator to the convention floor.
Walking in, you are struck by the
enormity of the presentation. Booths, booths and more booths. Aisle after
aisle after aisle. Opportunity is literally around every corner.
And then the walk begins. Down the
first aisle you go, stopping, talking, observing, touching Ė until you
realize that if you continue that pace it will take six months to see the
So you pick it up a little. By the
third aisle, your head begins that rhythmic side-to-side motion as you
stroll past the booths at a leisurely but steady pace. A few exhibitors
with sharp eyes catch the name on your badge and greet you personally.
You stop, but when they never
take their eyes off your chest, obviously trying to get more information
from your badge, you realize they are not one of your closest friends and
you move on.
By the 12th aisle you no
longer fall for the "badge info" trick. You insist on eye
contact, and since you never look directly at the exhibitors, you feel
As you round the corner and start the
47th marathon aisle, you realize every booth begins to look
alike. They only idea youíve generated up to this point is for a service
renting motorized scooters at trade shows to ease aching backs and legs.
Down the 96th aisle you go,
having seen nothing new, nothing exciting. Your eyes are glazed now, the
booths no more than a blur, but your head still swivels from side to side
as you crawl to the finish line.
Then, in aisle number 121, you
see it; A product that opens up the severely damaged (thanks to aisle
numbers 1 through 120) creative crevices of your brain. Blood begins to
flow again in your body as you consider the possibilities this new
product, this new contact, can mean to your company and your life.
You talk excitedly with the
exhibitor, grab all the literature, and move on with a new bounce to your
And itís a good thing, because you
check the directory and realize the show includes three auxiliary
buildings full of more booths. An idea could very well be in one of them,