The time is upon us – the Vegas Fastener Show (International Fastener Expo) is next month. September 17-19 to be exact. The big show, at least in the U.S. Still finding myself getting used to the show being in September. Not saying I like or dislike the time, just saying I’m still getting used to it. In the past when the show was later in the year it almost felt like there wasn’t that much time left in the year when you got back from the show. Now, It’s like we have the entire 4th quarter of the year to act on stuff we discuss at the Vegas Show. Small difference, but there is something there I’m still wrapping my head around.
I recently has a very nice opportunity to join Eric Dudas on a Fully Threaded Radio episode interviewing Georgia Foley, the CEO of STAFDA. I imagine most of you know this already but just in case you do not know how to find Fully Threaded Radio, go to www.fullythreaded. com. Georgia is just a great person to talk to and interviewing her was a pleasure. I bring it up because of some of the big differences I see when comparing fastener industry trade shows to the STAFDA, construction trade show. One obvious difference is that in the construction market there is pretty much one show – STAFDA. Conversely, the fastener industry has a plethora of trade shows. We have Vegas, Fastener Fair, Fastener Tech and then there are a number of regional trade shows frequently put on by regional fastener associations. Then, there are a number of companies like Fastenal and Grainger that hold their own shows. With these shows the exhibitors are asked to occupy tables and the attendees are only from the companies holding the events – not open to the public. An industry friend recently told me her company attends something like 70 trade shows a year throughout various industries and locations. When I catch up with guys like Kameron Dorsey of Beacon Fasteners or Bryan Wheeler of Star Stainless I’m exhausted listening to all the shows they have to attend in a year. I don’t know how they get to all of them. I’m not bringing up a new topic here but, eventually, something will have to give. All of these events will not last. Or, they will change. This is not just MY observation, people talk about this all the time.
What are some of the differences between STAFDA and the other show? Technically speaking, no one owns the STAFDA show. STAFDA members own the show and the show is simply one of the products that STAFDA management operates for their members. The show isn’t free, you still have to pay to attend, but the cost/value proposition is very good for members. No need expound upon it here, you can go to the STAFDA website to read more, or better yet listen to the Fully Threaded interview. Another interesting thing about Georgia Foley’s involvement in STAFDA is that she has been involved with STAFDA since she was a kid. Her father was one of the founding members of STAFDA and he agreed to run the organization in 1976 until he passed the torch to Georgia in 1999/2000. Since its inception in 1976 STAFDA has grown from 18 founding members to over 2,500 member companies including 1,052 distributors, 1,130 associates, 22 publishing affiliates, and 305 manufacturer rep/agents. They seem to embrace manufactures reps/agents and even let them join as full members! Hmmm???
I continue to be a big fan of the fastener industry trade shows. Networking is a huge part of the shows and each one offers an opportunity to meet with customers, suppliers, and all kinds of industry peers. I tell people, if I get five good meetings out of a show it was probably worth my time and effort to attend. But, I’m attending the shows and walking the aisles and not generally paying for the booth. That investment probably requires a better return on investment than five good meetings.
The challenge of all the trade shows, national or regional, is to get people to attend and, in particular to get those people to attend that the exhibitors want to visit with. Exhibitors don’t mind visiting with other suppliers but who they really want to visit with are new and existing customers. If you do not get them to attend then the show will not be worth the money.
It can be a challenge to come up with a new fastener show format but that will be the challenge for shows in the future. How many seminars on hydrogen embrittlement do we have to have before that ship has sailed. For crying out loud, if you need to know more about hydrogen embrittlement just call Carmen Vertullo like the rest of us!! So, what topics do we want to see at shows in the future? That’s the magic question. What business topics do we want to see covered? Marketing to Millennials? Future trends in technology? Personal Branding?
At STAFDA there will be a “Speed Interviewing” event where STAFDA members have the opportunity to talk one-on-one with potential interns and employees. STAFDA invites upper classmen with industrial distribution, construction management or related majors from leading universities and they help to facilitate interviews between the students and potential employers. How often do we hear how difficult it is to find good employees? This seems like an idea worth looking into for fastener associations or trade show operators. Forward thinking!
Well, I’m excited for Vegas and I’m also excited for Nashville which is where the STAFDA show will be held in November. Like I said, five good business meetings or conversations and I’ve paid for the event!