Sunday, March 29, 2009

Exhibitor Show 2009 - What's New?

Exhibitor show was much better attended by exhibitors and attendees than anybody expected. This is where so many of us 'show folk' get together and share our collective wisdom on the current state of our industry. It is no news that business is down but in the folks who came there was a collective sense that you cannot count this industry as out. Everybody I talked to was knuckling down and being a better business person, watching income and expense closely and planing for the day it turns around.
We are the industry that will be leading a turnaround because putting people back to work means selling stuff and face to face marketing is still the most efficient way to close a sale. Check out the recent white paper by George P Johnson . I believe we have to take the responsibility to make sure our clients get to the show even if it means a smaller sale for us now. Do a rental or recycle last years booth but make sure they go.

Exhibit slide show

A number of exhibit companies went with the strategies above so for design junkies like me there was not a lot of excitement or trend to comment on. Other than the trend of 'less-is-more' or 'looks-like-last-year" I need to comment on the increasing use of fabric and system architecture in an industry that is well known for keeping a lot of table saws busy. It's almost like we are turning European with many booths with a place to sit with clients and have an espresso. The 'Salons' were off show floor hospitality meeting rooms that allowed for deepening relationships and showing a broader array of products than a booth can. It's only the lack of any hi-concept exhibits that made it very clear that you are not at Euroshop yet. We did have a German Pavilion (which was recycled from TS2) that had one of my favorite products from Euroshop 2005 - Penta-Loop
Outstanding Exhibits included Creatacor, Expotechnik, and Octanorm/Abex-Solar. I don't know if Creatacor was a rerun but it really had movement and flow that used the tension fabric in a way that contrasted well with other structural elements. Expotechnik combined fabric and system in a well organized yet open space with lots of visual impact. Octanorm showed off their extrusion in a design from the Abex new solar line. It creates a system structure that uses layers and structure to embrace a modernist style seldom seen on American show floors. I'll admit to being a Dwell and Metropolis subscriber so I may be far from unbiased. But as trends go I would love to see more exhibits go down this road for it's beauty, efficiency and impact.
Maybe it is because I am a creative director for a tension fabric company that I was actually disappointed by what looked to be the overuse of fabric as walls. Like large format graphics which became so ubiquitous a few years ago that it is now cut back in favor of a clean white space. Fabric stretched over a flat frame is starting to remind me of the canvas and wood frame 'flats' of my early set design days. It's efficient but unless you can give it a reason to be, why even have a wall? I hope our industry will use fabric in contrast to other elements so we can appreciate it and not do it to death.
But what did you think?