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Your trade, your show

August 1st, 2019 / By: / Editorial

by Linden Wicklund

This year is the 99th year of IFAI Expo, and like every year, we’ve added new features to keep attendees and exhibitors coming back year after year. Among other things, there will be a fun run, puppies, and classroom and show floor education each day of the show. But the most entertaining part of planning this year has been the “myth busting” as we look ahead to this year’s show and all the ones to come. 

Myth #1: The same people come to IFAI Expo every year.
Reality: In 2018, 47 percent of IFAI Expo participants were first-time attendees. 

Myth #2: Not many marine fabricators come to IFAI Expo.
Reality: In 2018, 26 percent of attendees served the marine market; 22 percent were in the medical market; and 14 percent worked with smart fabrics/textiles. 

Myth #3: Most attendees are from small shops.
Reality: This depends on how you define “small.” Survey responses from 2018 attendees indicated that 49 percent of companies were “medium sized” (20–499 employees), 42 percent classified themselves as “small” (1–19 employees), and 9 percent were “large,” with 500 or more employees. Survey respondents reported having an average purchasing budget for 2018 of $360,000. 

We’ve learned that the space between myth and reality is far more informative than either one alone. 

  • IFAI Expo attendees do their research and are dedicated customers once they select suppliers for their businesses. They tend to hold back and check out exhibitors before diving into conversation, but are active and educated buyers once they’ve warmed up to a potential supplier. IFAI Expo has an increased focus on building new networking opportunities on and off the show floor. 
  • The industrial fabrics industry has an extensive and complicated supply chain from one end to the other. The average attendee serves five markets; these are dynamic companies who stay innovative and continually seek out opportunities to create new products in new markets. IFAI Expo attendees are encouraged to move among all areas of the show floor and all categories of education; exhibitors are encouraged to list all their offerings in the show guide and mobile app to help attendees find them—particularly when looking for something new that might not be on prominent display on the show floor. 
  • Regardless of size, or perception of size, IFAI Expo attendees have strong buying power, high decision-making authority and a strong interest in building and maintaining lasting business relationships. Attendees and exhibitors need opportunities to get to know each other to make those productive connections. 

This seeming gap between perception and fact is helpful in navigating how to change IFAI Expo each year, and help all participants make the most of the experience. 

I hope to see you at this year’s event and many more to come—especially our 100th anniversary next year in Indianapolis! Find me at the opening reception in Orlando, and I’ll do my best to introduce you to someone you might never have met otherwise. 

I’ll be the one in the jean jacket.