2020 was a year without an international plastics trade fair. Unless you count virtual trade shows, which I don't.
Virtual conferences are great, but a virtual trade show just isn't the same.
Earlier this month, the Plastics News editorial staff got its first chance in two years to experience an in-person international plastics trade fair, covering the 27th Fakuma in Friedrichshafen, Germany.
Our staff of journalists, many with years of experience at daily newspapers, is uniquely qualified to publish show dailies. We pack them with breaking news, features and great photos from the show floor.
Fakuma is a big show, but we cut our teeth doing award-winning dailies at the much bigger NPE and K fairs. So the Fakuma project is kind of a fun warmup, just to keep us on our game.
One of the nice things about doing dailies this year was the opportunity to work together, in person, for the first time since early 2020. While you may have reported to work at a manufacturing plant or office every day since the pandemic started, Plastics News, like most newspaper publishers, shifted to a virtual office model.
But for Fakuma, we had a team of eight together in Friedrichshafen, working in a newsroom, socializing and traveling together for an entire week. We also had a whole team in our Detroit office for the first time since March 13, 2020.
People think I'm crazy when I say doing show dailies is fun. But we take a lot of pride in reporting real news at trade shows. We also enjoy being together. When I think about fun times on the job in my 30-plus years at PN, a lot of the best memories are from covering trade shows.
Fakuma was canceled last year because of COVID. Canceling was the right decision in 2020. We don't want a plastics trade show to be a COVID superspreader event.
Fakuma bounced back strong in 2021, but not quite back to normal. The organizers said they had 1,600 booth reservations early in planning for the event, but when the show opened on Oct. 12, only 1,470 booths were occupied.
Exhibitors came from 39 countries, and 40 percent were from outside Germany, but the show still had a less international atmosphere than I've seen before.
Attendance seemed lower, too, although it exceeded exhibitors' expectations. I think that's how this show will be remembered: It adapted to COVID, exceeded expectations and marked a return to in-person trade shows for the plastics industry.
Don Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.