A look ahead to Midwest

January 14, 2013 By    

There’s no denying trade show attendance across all industries has largely been down over the last few years. The Midwest Propane Gas Convention’s attendance is no different, as it has declined 60 percent from 2008, when it drew 812 attendees, to 2012, when 320 people visited Indianapolis.

We recently caught up with David Lowe, the Midwest show’s chairman, to find out what’s in store for the upcoming March 12-14 convention in Indianapolis, as well as what those in the region can expect of the show come 2014.

What are some of the forces that have driven the show’s attendance downward over these last few years?

Lowe: The consolidation of the family business has taken a toll on bodies and dollars. In the 1990s and 2000s, we found it was not unusual for people to bring nine or 10 employees. Now, they bring two or three. People have passed away, they’ve retired or they don’t have as much interest.

Another significant thing is the age of the owner, management and the employee. When my dad was in the business in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, people would buy $1 million [worth of equipment] over a bottle of scotch and a handshake. Now, so many people do it with email, or they have an attorney look an agreement over. The marketers today are much different than the marketers of even 20 years ago. The perceived need to spend dollars to go to a trade show is not the same that people had in the past.

Also, people value their weekends much more. They’re telling us this, and one thing we’re doing for 2013 is moving the show to Tuesday through Thursday. We’ve heard this for a couple of years, and we were finally able to get a date in the planning process because you’re always one or two years out in the process.

How else is the show planning to bring attendance numbers back up?

Lowe: Some of the things we planned for 2013 are the popular supply seminar. We [have an] industry update seminar with [PERC’s] Tucker Perkins and [NPGA’s] Rick Roldan. We’re hoping that will attract people and get some information out. We have two seminars on corrosion control, as well.

Something new we’ve never done is we’re having a tri-state breakfast. It’s near the end of the convention. All three states’ attendees will get together and share some ideas over a breakfast.

We’re going to continue to assess, review and survey attendees to try to get a gauge of where we go beyond 2013. That’s an ongoing process that we’ve been doing since 1994.

Will the show move out of Indianapolis after 2013?

Lowe: That’s been an ongoing discussion since probably the inception. When you’re talking about something as big as that, it’s prudent and a fiduciary duty to review. We’re always taking a look at what we should do. We’ve invited other states to see if they would be interested in joining us. That was probably seven or eight years ago. We’ve considered going every other year and trading off with another trade show. But that’s a continuous agenda item. I would imagine we would make a decision after the 2013 show. I can’t imagine it’s going to be before that.

Shows go away, like [NPGA’s] Northeast [Convention and Trade Show] a few years ago. Now, the Northeast [Propane] Show has a program every other year for folks. – Kevin Yanik, managing editor

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the senior editor of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at kyanik@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3724.

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