Trade shows are the lifeblood of the hvacr industry. But they can be a draining experience, both physically and in the pocketbook.

Trade shows are the place to go to see a lot of manufacturers show a lot of new products and be able to talk face to face with people who know what they are talking about. But with dozens of trade shows each year — often tied in with conventions of associations — time, energy, expenses, and confusion mount. How do you have the time, energy, and money to go to more than one or two and still run your business? And which ones do you pick when all promise to be the greatest and most helpful?

Now, from overseas, comes a trade show planning organization with plans to try to bring it all under one roof — and then some.

Messe Frankfurt, with 11 subsidiaries and 64 offices, puts on trade shows overseas and now is planning ISH North America from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 in Toronto, ON, Canada.

Messe Frankfurt executive director Dirk Heinz Ebener said ISH North America would be modeled after ISH shows in Europe, focusing on six technology areas:

  • Kitchen and bath;
  • Installation of plumbing, hydronics, pipes, valves, and fittings;
  • Heating and ventilation;
  • Air conditioning;
  • Measuring, testing, control, and regulation; and
  • Building automation and lighting.
Such diversity will allow exhibitors and attendees “to meet the target group you want to see and do cross selling as well.”

He indicated that a successful ISH North America could lay the groundwork for fewer but larger trade shows with similar crossover potential. (Las Vegas, NV; Atlanta, GA; Toronto; Orlando, FL; Chicago, IL; and Washington, DC were listed as cities possibly able to provide enough space and hotel rooms for such mega-expos.)

Said Ebener, “As it is now, exhibitors are forced to make a decision of where they want to go because there are so many shows. One trade show in North America with one platform gives associations [that have been sponsoring their own trade shows] the opportunity to combine their shows with ours.”

Therein lies the rub. Will associations and industry organizations be willing to allow their trade shows to mesh with ISH if it means a loss of income from renting out booth space? (Let it be known that Messe Frankfurt has worked with associations to guarantee certain revenue opportunities.)

If associations want to have annual meetings held in conjunction with the trade show, will they be willing to limit those meetings to cities with convention centers large enough to host a major expo? Will those that have combined convention/trade shows in warm-weather places during the winter, be willing to shift those events to cooler climates in autumn? (There is talk of possibly moving future ISH North America shows to late spring.)

At the same time, the key to a mega-expo for hvac rests with the industry manufacturers, the folks who foot the bill. If they can be convinced that one show, at one place, at one time, will have a huge turnout of the right type of attendees, a large number of competitors exhibiting, and enough attendees and exhibitors from related industries such as plumbing and buildings, they may be willing to commit to such a concept — and take a pass on other trade shows.

While the concept of mega-trade shows is intriguing, it raises questions beyond the economic issues faced by associations and manufacturers. One is whether or not the cities most often cited really have enough room for a mega-expo — both on show floors and in hotels. Messe Frankfurt’s Ebener did not give an attendee or exhibitor projection for the Toronto show, nor did he speculate how many would show up for a mega-show. In the organization’s home country (Germany), the gigantic Hannover site has 27 buildings, parking for 40,000, and onsite restaurant seating for 20,000. Four or five ASHRAE/ARI shows could fit on that site at one time. But there is nothing like that in North America.

ISH North America in Toronto is a trade show that could prove to be of value to hvacr, plumbing, and building folks. But it could also be laying the groundwork for a major change in the way trade shows are done on this side of the Atlantic.

Powell is refrigeration editor. He can be reached at 847-622-7260; 847-622-7266 (fax); or (e-mail).

Publication date: 02/11/2002