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Interbike: BRAIN Publisher's Observations

Published September 29, 2009


It’s time for us to quit kvetching about Interbike’s dates, its location, and whether the show needs to add a consumer day. It appears the industry—and its thousands of dealers—have spoken once again. Dealers flocked to Las Vegas last week like ducks winging south for winter.

There’s no doubt most suppliers, as well as Interbike’s staff (and us as well), were convinced last week’s show would be light on traffic—with some predicting attendance dipping 10% or more. Wrong. It was an excellent show, despite some companies that, anticipating a drop, downsized booths or fled the show altogether.

Nonetheless, the dealers were there. Thousands of them made the trek to Las Vegas to see and ride what Interbike’s exhibitors had to offer. While there were no new products that—at first blush—we would call “revolutionary,” there was an ample supply of excellent products aggressively priced to compete in this Age of Frugality.

All this tells me that no matter how much exhibitors and others grind their teeth over the show’s seemingly late dates at the backend of September, and its location in a crappy town for bikes, enviros and Christians, dealers have spoken. They will come to Vegas, they will come in droves, and they will come regularly. And they mostly like it. So the rest of us need to get over it and support Interbike’s dates.

Still, it may be time for exhibitors and dealers to pressure Interbike’s management to up the quality of the event itself. Admittedly, there’s not much Interbike can do about drayage costs. The union and Sands management alike ream exhibitors like Roto-Rooter reams a drain. But exhibitors can tackle that problem by trimming weight where they can. And Interbike offers some tips to help.

Still, Interbike should toss a few dollars into the quality of the show. Yes, Interbike has bought off Bikes Belong and the NBDA to keep them and their members from launching a competing event. But that’s business as usual for trade shows.

Several years ago Interbike put the Media Center in the middle of the show floor. And, yes, the online media love it. But calculating whether it moves the money meter for dealers or anyone else is open to debate. Interbike also sets aside space for the NBDA and tech seminars, and they offer a home for a gaggle of non-profits to set up booths where there’s space.

But when you pause to look at the show itself, I fear Interbike falls a tad short. And I’m not talking about much. Interbike could do several things that would add immense value to those 27 hours of show-floor time. Here are my picks:   

    • A show the size of Interbike, a show listed among the 100 largest in the U.S., has yet to turn on the Sands’ wi-fi system for everyone. Instead, exhibitors that want wireless fork over $1,400 for three days of mediocre speed. That comes to more than 50 bucks an hour for someone manning a booth from 9 to 6 each day for three days. Don’t even ask what a T-1 costs. To turn wireless on would cost less than $20,000. Show director Andy Tompkins is well aware of the issue and wants to see that wireless investment made. But at Nielsen, budgets are budgets and more than a few good ideas have fallen under the budget knife. So it would help to let Nielsen management know it’s past time to step up. Wireless isn’t a luxury; it’s how we do business. 
    • Set aside more space for dealers to cool their heels, to eat their overly priced lunches, to sit and chat, or to organize the rest of the day’s exhibitor visits. And make those spots prominent on the show floor, instead of stumbling upon these haphazard islands of respite by accident. They aren’t on the show floor map. There’s no signage. People are sitting on the floor, perched on steps, balancing expensive food on cheap paper plates while wandering through a maze of jostling attendees. There may have been enough space available, but no one would know it. 
    • One of the hidden gems of a trade show is the enormous amount of publicity they generate for an industry. Interbike is no different. Yet Interbike shovels the press into what passes for a hovel when compared to other trade shows, especially Eurobike. There’s a lack of electrical outlets or a bank of computers as backup or to check email quickly. The press is crammed into a tight, dingy room with little room for meetings. Trust me when I say the care and feeding of the press is a smart marketing call. Yet Interbike has done little over the years to give the working press adequate facilities to do all that they must do. The investment in media care is minimal, but it can deliver extraordinary returns over time for exhibitors and retailers.
    • A final thought: To me the show floor looked cluttered, disorganized, somehow a jumble. It was difficult to get your bearings. Signs hanging from every sky hook in the convention center. Aisle signs hard to find and hard to read. Finding a specific exhibitor, even with a booth number, took effort. Perhaps I’m aging faster than I like to admit, but there was no discernible flow for floor traffic. Center aisles were a jumble of elbows and bags. It was as if the floor layout needed some “breathing” room.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but others mentioned it as well. One exhibitor said it reminded him of the old Taipei show. 


Topics associated with this article: Interbike

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