( Photo courtesy John Pandol )

Twenty-four-thousand of us were recently in Anaheim for PMA’s Fresh Summit. How many times did a question like “How’s the show going?” get asked? If one adds up every passing hallway comment and the rigorous follow-up surveys, this question was asked several hundreds of thousands of times. My favorite place to ask this question is on the exhibit floor on Saturday at 7 a.m. 

While some were getting ready for Queen Latifah, or securing a table for a breakfast meeting, or hitting the alarm snooze button one more time, the exhibit hall began to populate with folks preparing their booths for show hours. To be honest, my booth prep on day two does not take very long. I arrive on the floor early to see my counterparts, the ones who are serious about trade shows. These trade show roadies seldom leave their exhibits during show hours. 

So how was the show? 

Segmentation of the expo floor into four areas — Produce, Floral, Solutions, and Complementary Items — was new this year and it was good. It addressed a frequent complaint in the past of “The show is so big, one can’t see it all in two days.” (Translation: I must walk past exhibits in which I have no interest to get to the exhibits that are in my area of interest.) 

One can go round and round about the pluses and minuses of smaller versus larger shows with narrower versus broader product and service lines, but in a large broad-line expo both exhibitors and attendees benefit from exhibit segmentation. Concentrating the segments increased the ROTI (return on time invested). 

This is the second year that Fresh Summit was on a Friday-Saturday as opposed to a Saturday-Sunday. This was the best move since PMA reduced Fresh Summit from three days to two. Exhibitors report traffic is more balanced between the two days, especially later on Saturday.

Not everyone needs 14 hours on the floor. The professional buyers see what and who they want to see and get on their way. I’m curious whether last-day registrations are up. In the past, most one-day attendees were in on Saturday, and Sunday had much lighter attendance. I speculate the one day attendees are more evenly distributed between Friday and Saturday. 

Is suitcasing down? Suitcasing refers to sellers posing as attendees who approach other attendees to sell to them, having their product offering in a suitcase as opposed to a booth. My target buyers complain about not being able to walk the floor because “Someone stops me every 10 feet.”

Buyers have tactics to deal with this. Unfortunately, the buyers’ nuclear option is to not walk the floor. The other suitcasing method, sellers approaching exhibitors, seems to be down. 

The new product section in the middle of the hall — my target buyers always ask, what’s new? It adds value and drives traffic. And sometimes they even stop at the booths of established vendors in mature product lines. 

Good show. Thanks to Fresh Summit committee co-chairs Garland Perkins and Mac Riggan, and their three dozen volunteer committee members, for a job well done. 

As director of special projects for Pandol Bros., John Pandol attends, exhibits or speaks at more than two dozen events annually. 

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