That's Show Business!

These last few weeks have been rather hectic, particularly if you're an editor visiting exhibitions for the converting and package printing industry. In fact, over the past 30 years covering this industry, I don't recall ever having so many shows so closely scheduled. But that's show business, I guess.

Earlier this fall, I reported on Labelexpo, held September 9-12 in Rosemont, IL. Following on its heels was SuperCorr Expo on September 22-26. More recently, Graph Expo was staged on October 26-29 at McCormick Place. But the coup de grâce (oh, my aching feet!) undoubtedly was Pack Expo, Process Expo, and Converting & Package Printing (CPP) Expo — all of which were co-located, once again at McCormick Place, on November 9-13.

Inside the span of just three months, this show list represents only the tip of the iceberg. There's a whole slew of other shows, some of which are redundant, in varying sizes that will be held next year in the US, such as Graphics of the Americas, uv.eb WEST, PRINT 09 co-located with the new Flexographic Technical Assn.-sponsored PackPrint, Converting/Materials/Machinery (CMM) Exposition, and NPE2009, just to name a few. Then there are the European shows, including Drupa (this past April), in 2009 Grafitalia/Converflex, International Converting Exhibition (ICE), and Labelexpo Europe. And let's not forget any number of international shows that have replicated themselves all over the world.

Why are so many shows serving our industry? My guess is because the paper, film, foil, and paperboard converting industry in itself is quite horizontal, comprised of several very vertical businesses that are quite diverse in nature. It took a while for show organizers to figure this out, but once they did — oh, boy, the race was on to niche our once fairly cohesive industry into many smaller vertical shows.

And the exhibitors all signed up for booths at multiple, frequently overlapping, shows — albeit begrudgingly in many cases — so you could see their product offerings. Each new show promised a targeted audience with hopefully new faces and new selling opportunities.

Mind you, I have no grudge against any company — show business or any other type of business — for seizing upon an opportunity to make money. After all, isn't this what constitutes the very basis of American capitalism? So what's really at the heart of why there are so many shows is simply that it's profitable!

When one show loses it appealing flavor, it seems a new flavor pops up, in turn only to be replaced by yet a newer flavor that isn't necessarily any better than the last one, but it's new, so exhibitors try it. They're hoping for more new faces and new sales opportunities. And the show companies? They make money too.

After visiting with a number of exhibitors over the course of these past few months, I keep hearing what has become a static complaint. They feel there are too many shows. Okay, but who started this show craze, the exhibitors, the show companies, or the attendees who frequent the shows? Perhaps it's a bit like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg, but why does any show die, barely survive, or thrive?

Ultimately, I believe the success of any show hinges on the enthusiasm of the exhibitors that invest in a successful show with working equipment to attract similarly enthusiastic buyers. But what's more important is the interest of the visiting attendees. When your enthusiasm wanes, a show will die. But it's my guess that a new one will pop up to replace it, and the same exhibitors will support it. Seems like a never-ending Catch 22, doesn't it?

So what do you think? How do you decide which shows serve your needs? Would one behemoth show along the lines of a quadrennially held US-based Drupa show serve your needs as well or better than a number of niche or redundant shows? I really want to hear from you!

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