Michael Ouellette, Editor Shop Metalworking TechnologyClick image to enlargeby Michael Ouellette


The relationship between manufacturing and trade shows is a complicated one. Exhibiting or attending a trade show is costly, time consuming and pulls your team members’ focus away from the task of serving customers. 

However, now that two of the largest manufacturing trade shows (IMTS and FABTECH 2020) have been cancelled due to the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19, we have learned that these events are indeed essential for a healthy manufacturing sector. 

For me, the main indicator of this fact is the vast number of “virtual events” being launched. But there is much more to the trade show story than sales and prospecting, and that's why even after a quality webcast, I can’t help but feel they're lacking something. 

And that’s not because of the glitches and gremlins so common with the new virtual meetings technology we have all been forced to embrace. From inappropriate unmuting to unfortunate pet photobombs, it’s inevitable that problems will arise when people must quickly learn new technology. 

Last week I signed in five minutes early for a digital press conference and was greeted with five people smiling and one frantically trying to fix a problem before showtime. Luckily, this was all sorted out before the event actually began, which went off without a hitch and was very informative.

In fact, all of the virtual events I’ve attended have been relatively good. But it still leaves me with a feeling that something was missing, and that missing link is dialogue. 

Watching a presentation is a good way to get information from a single perspective, but when you convene a group of smart people, dialogue brings out the true value from that meeting of the minds.

From knowledge transfer to networking, learning best practices and upcoming trends, or simply to chat with people to discover previously unknown pain points or new tricks and techniques developed by those who use machines every day—it’s become clear that losing our trade shows has done more harm to manufacturing than can be measured on the balance sheet.

Which is why technical magazines such as Shop Metalworking Technology are important and relevant to the industries we serve. We have the dialogue with experts and report that information back to those who need it. 

And our readership itself is made up of the engineers and decision makers you would typically meet walking the trade show floor. 

Whether it’s through purchasing advertising or answering an editor’s request for an interview, I encourage everyone in the manufacturing sector to revisit the relationships they have with their respective industry magazines. Because when the trade shows are cancelled, there is no better way to get your knowledge and experience in front of those who need it. SMT

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