Today, IFPE 2020 opened (along with CONEXPO and CON/AGG) and no one knew what to expect. The travel panic over the coronavirus had caused more than a handful of exhibitors to pull out of the combined events — including some major fluid power manufacturers. Some companies opted to only send skeletal staffs to cover the show. Even our own parent company allowed employees to choose to cancel their travel plans if they were uncomfortable attending the show.
All that said, walking into the 2nd floor of the South Hall this morning was a bit surreal. A huge swath of the front of the exhibit floor was empty, leaving the South Hall look like it was sadly missing a few front teeth. A too-small-for-the-space stage stood in the midst of that field of carpeting, with no clear purpose … I’d almost wished show organizers would have hired a band to play on it, anything to distract attendees.
As the show opened at 9 a.m., a colleague back home texted, asking me about the crowds. “Crowds?” I thought. I was worried, as there really wasn’t anyone on the floor beyond the exhibitors in and around their booths. Usually, IFPE opens with a strong opening surge, and I was worried about what this meant for the rest of the day and the week. But as I made my way to a press conference in the North Hall a bit later, I encountered ever-increasing throngs of attendees in the Central Hall and North Hall, giving me some hope. Plus, the few glimpses I’d had at the attendees in the outside lots looked promising. By 11 a.m., people had made their way into IFPE, and there was a fine crowd walking the hall. With the exception of the expected lunchtime dip, the attendees kept coming.
Good news for the fluid power community, and a welcome sigh of relief after a somewhat shaky start!
Speaking with a wide variety of fluid power exhibitors throughout the day, I heard positive after positive about the quality of attendees on the show floor. Several expressed how these weren’t the “tire kicker” types, these were people ready to buy components, to specify parts into their systems. And that’s what really makes a good trade show: quality leads, not the quantity of leads.
We’re not out of the proverbial woods yet, as this new reality of cancelling events and avoiding large crowds may affect many industries and markets. Plus, what it means for the supply chain in fluid power and mobile equipment remains to be seen. But I’ll take every positive sign I can get. Here’s hoping for a great Day #2 at IFPE on Wednesday … more to come.