If you're going to GEAPS Exchange for information and networking, don't overlook another valuable resource: the trade show.
"The trade show is such a big part of the conference," said Mark Avery, publisher of Grain Journal and Milling Journal, and president of GEAPS' associate membership. "Members can learn a lot by walking around the trade show, talking to exhibitors, touching and feeling the equipment and seeing how it works. The whole thing is a learning experience."
More than 200 supplier companies have reserved booth space at the GEAPS trade show, March 4-6 in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. Products and services for every aspect of grain storage and handling will be on display.
The longest running exhibitor is Seedburo Equipment Co., Chicago, Illinois, U.S. This will be Seedburo's 50th appearance at GEAPS Exchange, according to Tom Runyon, president.
"The cooperation among the exhibitors, associate members and regular members is the key element behind GEAPS," he said. "It's a common organization with a common purpose. Rather than ‘us' and ‘them,' there is a sense of oneness. I think the conference is packaged very well, and that's what brings us back year after year."
Of course, the key for any trade show exhibitor is whether their target audience will be there. GEAPS Exchange draws the top operations people in a grain company, individuals who make decisions on equipment purchases.
"In years past we measured our success by the number of orders we received at the show," Runyon said. "Now, we look for solid leads toward quoting a project, solving problems, discussing a customer's past experience with our equipment and gathering new ideas."
One of the nearly 30 new exhibitors this year is Cytec Industries, Inc., Little Falls, New Jersey, U.S., which produces a cylinderized phosphine fumigant, Eco2Fume, for use in grain storage facilities. While it has been available for many years in Australia and several other countries, Eco2Fume was only recently approved for use in the U.S.
Brian McSwigan, Cytec's business director, global phosphine gas, said Cytec is exhibiting at GEAPS Exchange this year to formally introduce this relatively new, and now commercially available, cylinderized fumigant to the grain industry. "We feel that GEAPS represents an excellent opportunity to communicate our message to a wide, international audience," McSwigan said.
Beyond the contact with potential customers, Avery added, associate members should attend the GEAPS meeting for the fellowship, for leadership opportunities and for their own education. Because the trade show schedule not does not overlap with the educational sessions, there is plenty of time for exhibitors to go to the educational sessions.
"We encourage our regular members to support the trade show by spending time at the show and talking with exhibitors," Avery said. "The exhibitors have spent a good amount of money to be there, both in terms of booth cost and the cost of sending equipment and people to the show."
While it's important to make time to see your key suppliers, Runyon added, make it a goal to walk the entire trade show floor and talk to every exhibitor. Exhibitors also should try to visit with other exhibitors, especially their own vendors, he said. For instance, bucket elevator manufacturers should make it a point to visit their bucket vendors.
At the end of the day, the trade show is about networking, socializing and education. "Education is not just information, it's knowledge," said Dave Krejci, executive vice-president of GEAPS. "Many people come to GEAPS Exchange thinking, ‘I have a problem. Maybe there will be somebody here with a solution.' Often, you will meet someone here for the first time who can become a huge resource for you later."
Trade show tips
• Take comfortable shoes.
• Bring business cards.
• You'll be offered several gimmicky pens at the show, but bring a few anyway.
• Go with a goal, whether it's talking with key suppliers or just seeing what's new.
• Network. Start conversations wherever and whenever the opportunity rises.
• Take a shoulder bag for product literature and free giveaway goodies. Back at your hotel, you can separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were, for more efficient shipment back home. You may want to let FedEx haul your "goodie" box home.
• Leave the cell phone home. Ask the office and customers to contact you through the World Grain Message Center, 602-514-7973.