Anyone who attended the A+A show in Düsseldorf in October and the National Safety Council Congess and Expo in Philadelphia a few weeks later knows how different they are. The show in Germany is a four-day spectacular, occupying multiple exhibit halls with exhibitors providing food, drink and entertainment in addition to products. It has runway fashion shows with models in coveralls dancing to a techno beat. It’s a business event, with exhibitors and visitors from all over the world – more than 60,000 of them. It’s all about safety and health at work, and it’s held every two years at the same exhibit center.
The NSC Congress & Expo is a conference with exhibits, a meeting whose main purpose is continuing education and training in all facets of safety – transportation, community, education, occupational. It’s an annual event, and moves around the country.
To the exhibitors who were at both, including a lot of ISEA member companies, the contrast is stark. At A+A, companies meet customers and potential customers, show their products, and make deals. Everyone there is focused on occupational safety and health. At the NSC show, they show their wares to some distributors and some end-users, but it’s a much smaller crowd, with varied interests. There are times when the trade show floor seems empty of anyone but exhibitors.
Not surprisingly, these exhibitors are unhappy with the US trade show situation. It’s not just the NSC – the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo (AIHce) and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Safety Exposition are more focused on workplace safety and health, but they come in for their share of gripes as well. Companies question the value of bringing their wares to three trade shows every year, not to mention the regional conferences and multitude of market segment shows that have some safety component. They chafe at the lack of interest among attendees at these conferences, which are after all not held for the primary purpose of putting buyers and sellers together.
When the discontent rises to a level approaching outrage, exhibiting companies call for a better deal. They feel their requests are reasonable: merge the three big US shows (NSC, ASSE, AIHce) into one big trade show and hold it every other year. In other words, make it the equivalent of A+A. They say they’d be willing to pay double what they’re paying now for booth space, and in fact they’d probably book more floor space in a consolidated show. ISEA has conducted surveys, and organized a meeting with the executive heads of the three sponsoring organizations a few years ago. To be fair, all of them have taken steps to improve their shows for exhibitors. And these events are the primary market exposure for some companies. But the fact remains that they are conferences, not trade shows. There is no broad-based workplace safety and health trade show in the United States. PPE companies, feeling they have to be there, are forced to send booths, products and people to multiple events every year, with diminishing returns.
So what do you think? Is is time for a single workplace safety and health trade show in North America? Would you attend? Would ou exhibit? What would be your expectations for such a show? Share your thoughts here, and keep the conversation going.