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Walk, talk and repeat; the show’s daily grind

My mother-in-law asked, “What do you do at a trade show.” This one’s especially for you Grammy.

Tried something new and got to Las Vegas two days before the AWFS Fair, leaving all Tuesday to help with booth setup. Raise a banner, unpack magazines, position a table and chairs, and were done. Nothing went according to plan, I ended up in a casino, and my colleagues finished the job. Oh well.

Wednesday started as a sprint and turned into a marathon. A slew of appointments and media events lasted into the late afternoon. Explored maybe half of the show before heading to Biesse’s after-show gathering at The Venetian.

After finishing with my appointments Thursday morning, it was back to walking the aisles. And this is what I really do at a trade show: visit and talk with exhibitors. There were over 600. I didn’t visit every booth, but I tried.

I averaged five miles a day, according to my step counter. I divided the show floor into quadrants, concentrating on one or two a day. Quickly, at first, then returning for closer looks. I was dazzled by robotic solutions for moving materials, finishing and sanding; overwhelmed by the hardware choices; intrigued by the CAD/CAM software solutions; impressed with the student woodworking competitions, and blown away by the machinery innovations.

Wood coatings and engineered panels were also strong categories. There were dozens of woodworking accessories to explore. Dust collectors, abrasives, fasteners and hand tools also caught my attention.

There weren’t huge crowds to deal with. I’m fairly certain that the 2019 AWFS didn’t break any attendance records. The opening-day crowd wasn’t very impressive. Thursday was the busiest day. Friday and Saturday were slow.

I wasn’t alone. Woodshop News was well represented by publisher Rory Beglin and staff writer Jennifer Hicks. We had part-time help to cover the booth and contributors John English and Ian Kirby were also present.

I also pulled booth duty, which was a welcome relief from walking the aisles. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s an absolute pleasure to meet our readers. I’m always humbled by your kind words and appreciate the story ideas. There’s usually a surprise guest or two and this year’s highlight was a visit from Popular Woodworking editor Andrew Zoellner and advertising director Don Schroder. Popular Woodworking was recently purchased by Active Interest Media, the parent company of Woodshop News, so now we’re on the same team. Awesome news.

Saturday, closing day, is usually pretty slow. But I added some excitement by purchasing a central dust collector. It wasn’t on a whim, but it was on sale. Then it was time to pack up the booth and head for the airport.  

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue.

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