It was only day one of ProMat 2019, arguably the leading trade show for manufacturing and supply chain professionals in North America, and it just broke its own record for first day attendance with over 45,000 attendees. Something was clearly drawing folks to fill Chicago’s gargantuan McCormick Place Convention Center – the largest convention center in North America. Our team set out to investigate just what that draw was by experiencing the show ourselves.
As we stepped off the comfortable shuttle, we were assisted by directional signage touting this year’s “Find Your Wow” campaign messaging. The anticipation built as we neared the action and the crowd began to swell. The scale of the venue was our first “Wow” moment, but we were really interested in what was wowing the other attendees – those who live this industry day in and day out.
As we approached the trade show floor, we were engulfed by large screen displays, teeming groups of industry professionals, moving installations, lists of conference activities and speakers, and of course, a well-designed map to help sort it all out. Walking by booth after booth and engaging with key decision makers from companies across the supply chain spectrum, we started to get a feel for how to maneuver across this premier trade show floor.
Stand in one place for 30 minutes, and you can start to discern patterns of traffic and spot what catches the attention of attendees in comparison to what does not. Here is what we noticed:
1. Engagement Can Be Fun
Many of the booths offered engaging, interactive experiences that shone a new light on what has the reputation for being a very serious, detail-oriented industry. These guys may work in a world becoming more and more obsessed with robots, but you can’t take the human out of them. Conversations seemed to feel the most natural to those who were having the most fun.
2. Focused Design Always Works
Let’s be clear – there is a LOT to see at ProMat, but one can discern patterns. We noticed there were three basic types of booth designs: (1) The booth designed to be the brochure for everything the company does; (2) The booth that focuses on one BIG idea the company wants you to understand; and (3) The booth that falls somewhere in between the first two. On a floor like ProMat, the more focused, clean, and simple a booth was, the more it not only stood out, but the easier it was to walk away remembering what you saw. As we ambled about, we did a mental survey and the winner was clear: booths with clean, iconic, sticky design and language grabbed their audience much more readily than a trade show presence that tried to communicate loads of value prop language and product jargon.
3. Entertainment Has Value
In addition to there being a lot to see at ProMat, there’s also a lot to learn, a lot to talk about, and a lot to review. But most importantly, there is a lot that makes an indelible impression after you leave. Like an array of incredibly precise pick and place robotic arms running through a synchronized demonstration. Attendees stood around transfixed, similar to the way visitors to Las Vegas are mesmerized by the fountains at the Bellagio. Once this booth had assembled a captive audience, a senior executive took the mike and explained how his company’s new generation of robots are safe, smart, collaborative and can work side-by-side with people and automate business processes and points of use that have historically been incapable of automation.
For manufacturing and supply chain professionals, ProMat (Powered by MHI) is the place to find your WOW. It is also a fantastic example of how this industry is evolving and taking its members in exciting new directions.