The Exhibition season has started. Next week, we're exhibiting at MSV in Brno. This week, we're at Empack in Brussels and next week also we'll be at Foodpacking in Utrecht, closely followed by Jet Expo in Paris. Next year will be even more due to the big Emballage event in Paris. In November, we have the Europack-Euromanut in Lyon. We were not at Fachpack in Nuremberg, although I would have liked to be there.
Well liking… Why do we do these exhibitions?
I started my career at American Express and as far as I know they never ever were present at any exhibition. Maybe this has changed now. Then I moved to Dole Food Company (yes, of the bananas and the pineapple) and there we always participated in Anuga in Paris and a big fair in Cologne of which I forgot the name. Even there, we would talk endlessly about the sense or nonsense of participating. Participating is a substantial investment in time for preparation, money for the stand, and time spent on the exhibitions themselves. The results? I cannot remember ever having sold any project or any can of fruit on, or as a direct result of participating. Once at Dole Food Company they sent me to Russia to manage a stand in Moscow. This was because I was responsible for Germany, and this being the closest country they had the logic was that I was the natural candidate. The stand was fully prepaid and “all I had to do was get there, be present and take orders”. So to Moscow I went as a good soldier and I inspected the stand the day before the opening. Of course, not a single thing was done, apart from the carton walls and some cheap furniture. Our samples, which had cost a fortune to import (certificate of non-irradiation was a requirement – where do you get such a thing) and our beautiful pictures were thrown on a heap on the floor. Luckily, I DID bring some cello tape so I tried to do what I could with my very limited decorative skills. The next morning my first visitor arrived. A beautiful lady in a fur coat and two assistants in her trail. She spoke to me in Russian for a long time, upon which she smiled and looked questioningly at me. The interpreter translated: “she says you have a very poor stand, and she wonders why”. Again, we did not sell a thing in Moscow.
In the food industry, things were very different until the sixties, where older colleagues told me the fairs were the major source of sales. So why do we carry on with this, in the days of the so called “global village” and the internet? We cannot possibly show our systems on exhibitions, these are far too large. Even one palletiser would cost a fortune to exhibit and it would be pointless, as the in feed and output of our high speed machines would take hundreds of square meters. So we could only show it statically, which just beats watching paint going dry in excitement. So this is not a reason to exhibit either. I believe the reason is that no matter the internet, no matter mobile phones and video conferencing, people are people and people like meeting people. After all, we are and we will remain, I hope, a social animal.
So this is what exhibitions are: social events. It is a place to meet long standing customers, exchange gossip with competitors, catch up with colleagues and suppliers we do not normally have the possibility to spend time with. And this in the end of the day is crucial, as the human relation is the very fabric of our society.
Maarten van Leeuwen
Group Managing Director
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