The big challenge for trade show visitors and exhibitors is how to get the most out of the time and money they invest in participating. As an exhibitor, I've asked myself, ``Do I just have to wait at the booth for real prospects to show up - out of 75,000 attendees?'' As an attendee, I've wondered, ``How am I supposed to sort out which of 2,000 companies are `must' visits?''
These challenges are solved at NPE 2006. SPI has developed an Internet tool called myNPE for identifying suppliers, customers and peers you need to meet. You can interact online before the show, set up meetings and maybe even negotiate. Once you've pre-registered for the show, you should go to www.npe.org/mynpe, set up a personal portal and plan your personalized NPE.
Using a search engine, myNPE draws on data input by registered visitors and exhibitors and matches them according to the technologies, products and educational events they wish to see. The matches are updated weekly, with alerts sent by e-mail. Each registrant makes selections to add to a personal show planner. Matched individuals can communicate electronically by mutual consent. Three weeks before the show, attendees can develop a map with booth visits pre-routed.
At the show, attendees can go online to consult their planners and update them with more searches. Some 37 product locator terminals will be located throughout the show to display the planners and even print them out - including a floor map.
Booth visits can be logged directly into personal portals when visitors have their attendee cards swiped by booth personnel, providing detailed post-show records.
SPI is looking at ways to take advantage of myNPE long after the show. The wealth of information collected at the NPE 2006 Web site has the potential to make myNPE a more efficient tool for specific plastics key words than even Google. Unlike an ordinary search engine, it makes possible two-way communication.
The tool is based on technology that has been at major trade shows of other industries. We've learned that such technology actually helps grow a show. It brings in more attendees, gives them a reason to stay longer and provides exhibitors with more interested, qualified leads than can be acquired by simply waiting for prospects to come along.
I hear people talk about a conflict between cyberspace and the world of everyday life. But those who use myNPE will meet more people face to face, see more equipment in action and want to spend more time at the show. For exhibitors and attendees, everyday life just got easier.
Carteaux is president of the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., sponsor of NPE 2006.