Coping with the tradeshow dilemma: Stuck between a rock and a hard place


For those in the manufacturing industry who rely on selling products face-to-face, we feel your pain during this pandemic. You are stuck between the “rock and the hard place” that gives you less than favorable ROIs either way you choose. The rock in this situation is the latest and greatest virtual events that, although they claim to offer exciting ways to connect with buyers, they tend to leave exhibitors and attendees with lackluster results that could have been obtained with elbow grease and LinkedIn. The hard place is the good old reliable tradeshow that physically gets you in front of real people for a real handshake. Unfortunately, with the impact of the pandemic and government limitations on how many people can meet together, we have seen the tradeshow industry suffer in 2020 with cancellation after cancellation.

The Rock

According to a recent blog on, 43 percent of exhibitors will not participate in a virtual event with an astounding 67 percent saying the networking did not meet their expectations. This kind of feedback is not surprising for the tradeshow industry — that has survived decades of new technology and social media to remain relevant — because you cannot expect an in-person event to feel the same when it is done over a computer. So, what do you do as an exhibitor to help navigate these virtual tradeshows? Here are some ideas:

• Do your research before exhibiting at a virtual event. Will they help you market? Are there tools and sponsorships that you can gain access to in order to help promote your brand above the others?

• Make sure you have a team ready to tackle all that goes into a virtual event. Your staff needs to be ready to answer questions, follow up with matchmaking, and, during the live days of the event, you and your employees need to take advantage of each event offered. (You never know when you will meet the right person.)

• Have your materials ready to go. Many of these virtual events have you meeting with a person over a Zoom call. You cannot have them look at your machine in the traditional sense, but have pamphlets, video, and collateral ready on your computer to bring them into your shop.

• Set expectations. Everyone is trying to navigate this weird situation, and so it helps to know that you might not get the same quality leads that you might get at a face-to-face, but that doesn’t mean being there isn’t important. Just make sure your output matches in your input for ROI.

The Hard Place

“More than 500 trade shows have not taken place in recent weeks, costing up to 23 billion euros ($26 billion) in lost orders for exhibitors,” according to UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry. Source

And to think, $26 billion was from March, which means that many more shows have canceled causing an increase to this number. These cancellations affect cities, convention centers, hotels, local businesses and restaurants, exhibitors, and attendees. This pandemic has had a deeper reach into the economy more than people expected. So, what do you do if your tradeshow has been canceled? Here are some ideas:

• If the face-to-face component has been canceled, but the virtual option is available, try to see if it will work for your products. If it doesn’t, take your money and use it in more viable places such as industry publications and social media advertisements, i.e. sponsored content on LinkedIn.

• Take the refund and put it toward making videos and materials that will help you market products to your customers that you cannot see in person. It might be time to revamp your logo, the look of your booth, and update your brand for when the next in-person show happens.

• Tradeshows will not be canceled forever. Start planning for 2021 and find the tradeshows that are committed to happening no matter what. You want to exhibit with a show that is determined to get you on the show floor and shaking hands (or bumping elbows) — even if it does look a little different with masks and space restrictions.

Manufacturers are having to pivot every chance they get. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the virtual vs. in-person tradeshow, but a hybrid of both isn’t a bad idea. AGMA knows the gearing industry is always facing tough decisions, but that is why “We’re All In” with the MPT Expo 2021. It is a promise to those who couldn’t share their exciting and new products this year at other canceled shows, that they will be able to get out there in St. Louis to do what they do best — business! Join us in September 2021 and be a part of the tradeshow that gets you quality leads for the power transmission industry.

Call for Papers

AGMA’s 2021 Fall Technical Meeting ready for submissions

It is more important than ever that the gear industry shares research for the future of the manufacturing sector. It is through coming together and breaking down emerging technology and the latest processes, that we get better.

Each year, authors selected by AGMA, write peer-reviewed technical papers on topics relevant to the gear industry. Some of these subjects presented are related to:

1. Design and Analysis.

2. Manufacturing and Quality.

3. Materials, Metallurgy, and Heat Treatment.

4. Operations, Maintenance, and Efficiency.

5. Gear Failure.

The authors have the opportunity to present the results of their work at the Fall Technical Meeting to an audience of knowledgeable engineering professionals from all around the world. Papers should be on relevant technical subjects, original to the AGMA audience (not a paper that has been previously published in its submitted form), technically accurate, and free of commercialism. All papers presented at FTM will be indexed in Scopus, the international database of peer-reviewed literature.

Please follow the instructions necessary to submit an abstract through the AGMA website: The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2021. If you have any questions please contact the Technical Department at

Motion & Power Technology Expo has industry leaders all in, are you?

The Motion + Power Technology Expo, produced by the American Gear Manufacturers Association, connects the top manufacturers, suppliers, buyers, and experts in the mechanical and gear power, electric power, and fluid power industries.

  • Where: St. Louis, Missouri
  • When: September 14-16, 2021
  • How to Exhibit: Contact Christine von Steiger at 703-706-8252, or
  • More info:

Upcoming Webinars

Investing in Advertising
December 9, 2020, 1-2 p.m.

Experts: Randy Stott, vice president, AGMA Media; David Friedman, associate publisher, AGMA Media

What does your advertising budget look like? Do you even have one? Do you know where to start? Our in-house experts are going to walk you through the print and online magazine advertising world. From why it is important to put money into your brand recognition to how you even begin the process of buying out pages of a magazine. Learn the right negotiating tools and how you can start getting your customers to see your products on a daily basis.

Navigating Through Social Media for Marketing
January 13, 2021, 1-2 p.m.

Expert: CSG Creative
Staff: Rebecca Brinkley, Director of Marketing & Communications, AGMA

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and many more social platforms exist that you can use to help grow your brand recognition and network with peers and potential customers. But, which one is beneficial for your company? Attendees will learn the best way to get started on social media and how to develop a social strategy that will get your customers engaged with your company and employees.

Upcoming Education

How to Interpret a Gear Inspection Chart
December 15, 2020 | Virtual

This half-day online seminar is intended to provide you with a thorough understanding of the information contained within a typical gear inspection report. Specifically, we will look at the contents and meaning of the information contained within the gear charts, as well as the techniques used by the gear measurement system to assess gear quality. An explanation of basic measurement techniques, how measurement equipment and test machines implement these techniques, and how to interpret the results from these basic measurements will be covered. We will also discuss how to interpret the results and what corrective actions may be considered if the quality of a particular gear is unsatisfactory.  This course is IACET accredited and worth 0.3 CEUs.

Ongoing Recorded Virtual Training

  • Detailed Gear Design – Beyond Simple Factors.
  • Gear Failure Analysis.
  • Gearbox CSI: Gears Only.
  • Online Workforce Training: Parallel Gear Inspection.
  • Online Workforce Training: Hobbing.
  • Online Workforce Training: Fundamentals of Gearing.

Calendar of Events

December 15 — Plastics Committee Meeting — WebEx

December 17 — Lubrication Committee Meeting — WebEx

January 12 — Nomenclature Committee Meeting — WebEx

January 14 — Metallurgy and Materials Committee Meeting — WebEx

January 27 — Plastics Committee Meeting — WebEx

January 28 — Lubrication Committee Meeting — WebEx

January 28 — Reverse Engineering Course — Online

February 2 — Bevel Gearing Committee Meeting  WebEx

February 16 — Nomenclature Committee Meeting — WebEx

February 23-25 — Gear Manufacturing & Inspection Course — Online

February 23 — Gear Accuracy Committee Meeting — WebEx

February 25 — Metallurgy and Materials Committee Meeting — WebEx