GIS 2013

Another show come and gone. My 40th I believe as my first was in 1971 and I have only missed two since. I have watched the “show” go through a fairly stagnant stage to one of full speed ahead to a time of forlorn faces and pessimism to this year’s cautious optimism.

Though this year’s show was very nicely organized and looked good, I have to believe that the number of exhibitors and floor space rented has gone down substantially since the heady days. Unfortunately, it was our perception that the attendee numbers were down as well this year. We were very busy on Wednesday morning, relatively steady in the afternoon, slightly less on Thursday am and really dead on Thursday afternoon. The last hours of any and all shows are pretty slow so not unexpected. However, last year it seemed we were a good bit busier throughout.

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Wednesday AM before the distributor preview.

Sometimes we question the value of the show and the substantial cost, especially for the number of end-user customers (Superintendents) that “touch” our booth and/or personnel. However, we also consider the national show to be our international distributor meeting as we see a majority of those folks who bring our products to the marketplace, in the US and throughout the world.

I am not so sure most have any idea what goes into putting up a booth, so thought I would share our efforts. Three days ahead of the show (this year Sunday) three of our people will fly in to begin the process of taking the product and displays out of 8 crates and 2 pallets. Monday am two more will fly in as the set up continues and the rest of us on Tuesday to help with final arrangement of products and preparation for our visitors. We bring Tom and Gary who run our manufacturing operation for their production and materials expertise, Dawn as she is in communication with so many of our dealers on a regular basis, Dan and Scott who head up our sales and marketing and know many if not all of our dealers personally, Mike who primarily handles international affairs, and finally, me – I hand out the mints.

Looking down the main aisle at about 7am on Wednesday.

Looking down the main aisle at about 7am on Wednesday.

The trade show hours average 10 hours a day and none of us are out of the booth for personal time except for a short lunch (usually a hot dog) and bathroom visits. It makes for a long time on one’s feet and our backs will further attest to it.

At the end of the second day, tear down begins with what we call the Velcro symphony, so named from the cacophony of pop up booths being stripped of their panels. It takes us (all 7 of us) roughly 5 hours from start of tear down to shipping labels on crates. This year we got our crates in relatively short order and thus not having to wait for them got us to a beer and pizza about an hour earlier than normal.

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Once back home the work begins. Following up on inquiries, product information, requests, as well as delving into product ideas presented and improvements suggested. It’s truly exhausting but there is a sense of excitement to it all as well. Till next year in Orlando.

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Trade Shows

What do you think? For as long as I have been attending them (over 24 years now) I have heard and expressed myself that they are dying.  Now it seems that actually might be happening. 

I contended years ago that with the increase in competition, first Lesco and then John Deere, that equipment manufacturers who might have been a bit complacent picked it up.  Where once the Superintendents more or less relied on trade shows to see equipment, now the equipment dealers were more than happy to bring the particular piece right out to the course.  And right away. 

Another development has been the internet, where education, once only available in conjunction with annual conference and show, was suddenly available from the comfort of one’s office or home over the computer. 

And finally, with the newer popularity of various social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, the need to use trade shows as means to stay in touch and renew friendships has pretty much disappeared.

I think this is a shame but then probably so do most of us “old” guys who relish the face to face greetings and conversations, enjoying each other’s company over a coffee or cocktail.  Like I used to tell my Dad, “things have changed”.  And have they ever. 

Our Minnesota turf conference finished up a couple weeks ago and much like the way it is referred to, as a Turf and Grounds conference, the camaraderie of what used to be the Superintendents show is pretty much lost among the greater industry participation.  I fully understand the financial reasons for joining together, both from the various associations and manufacturers perspectives.  But I don’t have to like it.

Only time will tell what the future of trade shows will be.  But, clearly there is concern at every level and especially at the GCSAA where the GIS represents such a sizeable part of their revenue.

GIS ’10

Another show come and gone. This year’s show was noticeably smaller in size and the number of attendees seemed lower as well. Nonetheless, we felt we had a good show with good interest in products, new and old.

This annual event offers such a great opportunity to greet old friends and make new. We use it as a dealer meeting, taking advantage of the convenience of greeting in one place  so many of our US and International dealers and customers, most of whom are good friends. And, of course, it is good to show products and field comments from Superintendents. We only wonder about the future of these trade shows. The demise of which is widely predicted and clearly regional shows have been getting smaller and smaller.

With education and product information readily available from the comfort of one’s office and the more than accommodating sales folk’s willingness to bring equipment to one’s course, the need to travel is becoming less important. Certainly the GCSAA sees this trend and has to be worried as so much of their budget is generated from this conference and show. From a personal point of view, we already are losing a lot of the personal interaction in life that adds so much. I would hate to see our relationship with dealers and customers become an exchange of electronic pulses.

The show is exhausting and expensive for those of us who exhibit but we do cherish the benefits just the same. Hope to see you in Orlando in ’11.

More Travel

Just returned a week ago from a couple golf shows, one in Jonkoping, Sweden and the other in Munich, Germany.  Except for the language, the Greenskeepers (as they are called in Europe, and quite frankly a title I prefer as more romantic and prestigious than Superintendent) look the same, have the same concerns, ask the same questions, and enjoy the industry and visiting with their reps as we do here in America.

The trade show halls are different.  Instead of curtains, the smaller booth walls are solid.  The halls themselves are each about the same as one of our smaller regional or State shows and adding together the total footage does not come close to our nationals.  However, it is a custom and common for each booth to be serving snacks, even sandwiches or sausages, and coffee or wine or beer.  Due perhaps only to the night before hangover, the coffee is far more popular before noon!

For me, I always find it so much fun to be conversing with someone form the other side of the world on subjects so familiar to us both.  The only impediment is language and thankfully, “they” have learned English.  I also enjoy looking at the products that are either new to me or are a brand unfamiliar to us here.  I always look forward, not to the long trip, but simply being there.

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2009 Golf Industry Show – a week in the life of an exhibitor

Oh to only have had the Happy Feet booth at the GIS in New Orleans.  Now that guy was busy, mostly with exhibitors.  Standing around will do that.

The show attendance was definitely lower this year and it’s no wonder as New Orleans is typically not as good a draw as Orlando or San Diego, according to the GCSAA.  Then with the barrage of bad news and fear mongering we get daily from the big three networks…but that is for another blog.  The good news is that the lower numbers meant more time with those who were there.

So what’s it like to be an exhibitor at this show?  Well, it starts nearly right now (February) for Par Aide, for next year.  We are already thinking of what products we will display and how we will display them as we will be contacted within the next month or so to commit to a size and location in the San Diego show hall.  Booth space is chosen in an order determined by years in the industry and dollars spent with the GCSAA in numerous areas.  We fall within the top 30 of the 600+ exhibitors.  Once this step is completed, we turn our attention to the next year’s catalog.  Later in the year, we will book air travel, hotel rooms and even dinner reservations, arrange for freight, pick out show “uniforms”, and a myriad of other details.  Tremendous time is spent in preparation and dollars budgeted for this three day event.

 A moment to rest, amid the setting up chaos

A moment to rest, amid the setting up chaos.

To all of our buddies who think working a trade show is just another vacation, I would like to set the record straight.  It’s not.  It is definitely fun to make new friends and greet old ones, to introduce a product that excites the customers, and enjoy dinners out.  But the set up, tear down, and long hours on one’s feet is not how we would advertise a new sales position for our company.  None of us saw anything of New Orleans except what we could see from the bus, and of course, Bourbon Street, (which gets old after 2 nights walking through it, or maybe we’re just old).  None of us knew what the temp was druing the day or if it was sunny or storming.  However, we were very familiar with where to get a “good” coffee in the hall, what edible foods could be found where and the location of the bathrooms.

Towards the end of the three days, one can hear the “Velcro Symphony” warming up as those who have not seen a customer in 3 hours begin to dismantle their booths.  We, on the other hand, don’t even bother.  We know that we will be taking apart and packing our products for the return home for hours.  This year it was 6 hours.  This following 5 show hours.  We find a quick meal and head to bed.  For the first time in 3+ days we are not “on” but can’t even enjoy it.

Before you shed too many tears  for us, we do enjoy it all.  But, it’s NOT a vacation!

What a Great Industry

I love this industry:  My involvement began when I was very young, hanging out at Par Aide (and dew whipping and cutting the putting green we had in our back yard).  Technically I was working, but I think tolerated might be a better word as I just wanted to play.  Rides on the two wheeler, designing creative ways to do the simple job I was given and generally goofing off might better describe my “work”.  However, it began a love affair with this company.

In 1971 I attended my first GCSAA Conference and Show (the GIS now) in Denver, where I happened to be going to college.  Since then I have only missed one or two shows.  My full time involvement began in 1986 and I figure that I have exhibited in over 100 local, regional, national and international trade shows.

1981 GCSAA in Anaheim, boy have times changed.

1981 GCSAA Show in Anaheim, boy times have changed.

No matter where I’ve been there is one thing that is consistent – the vast majority of the folks with whom I interact, either on the sales or customer side are really good people.  And, while we all have our headaches and difficult situations, in general, what we do still centers on providing pleasure.

For the most part, competitors get along.  They may aggresively compete during the day but commonly share a cocktail at night.  Superintendents, again competing to have the best greens or fairways or whatever, will commonly share techniques, information and even equipment.  In this environment, business can be fun and trade shows provide an opportunity for friends to get together.  I don’t know whom to attribute this quote, but I have heard it in relation to golf.  In any case, it sums up my experience; “There are no strangers in our industry, only friends I have yet to meet.”

Anybody recognize this guy with his mustache disguise?
Anyboy recognize this guy in his mustache disguise?

As the 2009 GIS in New Orleans quickly approaches, I again look forward to seeing old friends and meeting future friends.  So, if you plan on attending the show this year, I hope you find time to stop by the Par Aide booth, it would be great to relive many past memories and start up some new ones as well!

Trade Shows

For the last few years my trade show participation with the exception of the GIS has been quite limited.  Par Aide’s Dan Brown and Scott Melling now handle most all of the regional shows.  I do some of our International ones.  What are your thoughts on them?

For as along as I have been in the business, trade show attendance and value to the vendors has been discussed and debated.  There was a time when a Superintendent would attend the show to look at and compare various products, similar to going to the supermarket.  Then over the years with added competition, it seemed that the need to attend was mitigated by the willingness of sales organizations to bring the product(s) to the Superintendents, to test and see on their own particular turf.  Trade show attendance tapered and the motivation to go to the conference seemed to shift to gaining education credits or certifications, which can now be done online.

Have trade shows become more irrelevant in light of the Internet and pressure to stay “at home” (home and office)?  I hope not.  The camaradarie and general industry knowledge shared was a part of what made/makes our industry so great.  Getting together with buddies, a couple nights out, trading stories and lies; these made memories for me that I cherish to this day.