So how was NPE 2006? The show just felt good.
This NPE proved that major trade shows remain the best way to see lots of technology firsthand and talk directly to experts. In an age of e-mails, an NPE (or a K show, Chinaplas or Plastindia), lets you shake hands and feel the heartbeat of the plastics industry.
That human interaction creates a buzz that can lead to sales. The buzz was stronger at this NPE than at NPE 2003, according to officials of injection molding press makers, which was my “beat” at the Chicago trade show.
Most exhibitors I talked with were pretty happy. Those good feelings come from a combination of reality and expectation. (NPE 2006 was my sixth, which qualifies me as trade-show psychologist).
I've learned that opinions about the success of any NPE hinge on memories of the prior show, three years earlier. Let's go back to NPE 2003. It came, in turn, after the record-setting NPE 2000, when 90,142 people jammed into McCormick Place and the economy was strong. Then, promptly after NPE 2000, the U.S. plastics machinery market collapsed! The following year, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks hit, further weakening the economy and hurting the trade show industry.
OK, so then we got to NPE 2003. Although the plastics industry was recovering, lots of companies still were going out of business, slammed by plastics work moving offshore. Expectations were low going into the show. Attendance fell to 63,238, but exhibitors discovered that they actually sold some equipment.
The buzz on NPE 2003: better than expected. Not too bad.
Now we move to NPE 2006. China, India, resin prices, et al., have culled out lots of processors. The survivors came to McCormick Place ready to improve their technology, needing to invest. NPE attendees seemed to be cautious, still, because of high resin prices, but they started with the basic attitude that exhibitors love.
Overall attendance of 64,451 was up 2 percent from NPE 2003. Although it was nowhere near the rock-out figure of 2000, NPE 2006 reminded me of what makes a trade show exciting in the first place — qualified, motivated decision-makers come looking for answers.
The buzz on NPE 2006: That's more like it!
A few more words on attendance figures:
* According to the show's organizer, the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., visitor registration — which does not include exhibitor personnel — was up 9 percent. The number of companies exhibiting fell a bit, reflecting industry consolidation.
* NPE 2006 finally became a true, global show. SPI said that international visitor registration was up 33 percent from the last NPE, hitting a record. International exhibitors also hit a new high of 33 percent of the total exhibitors.
So the show was global, pretty upbeat and the weather was good in Chicago.
Bregar is an Akron, Ohio-based senior reporter for Plastics News.