Getting the most out of IMTS

I have had the good fortune of attending IMTS as an exhibitor, a manufacturer’s agent and an industrial distributor since 1994.  In each role I’ve learned a few things about how different people approach the IMTS show and what they get out of it.  Here’s some ideas on how you can maximize your IMTS experience.

Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.

-Thomas Alva Edison

Pre Plan your visits

It goes without saying that you need to take advantage of the “My Show Planner” here on the IMTS website.  There are going to be some exhibitors whom you already want to see, reconnect with and /or check out their newest products.  Log-in now and get registered.  Start the list that you already have in mind.  By starting early you’ll be able to determine where you need to be and when.

As you get closer to the show give yourself plenty of extra time to stop and check out other booths.  I’ve seen people go to both ends of the spectrum: One one side they try to see too many people and not have enough time and on the other end give themselves plenty of time to look but rush at the end to get through the “list”.   Balance is the key.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Walk through ALL of the pavilions.  You might be surprised that the one pavilion that is NOT on your list has the keys to your success.  Here’s why.  An exhibitor has a core product that been around for a number of years.  But in the process of manufacturing they either discover a niche product at an international show somewhere in the world, develop a solution to a problem or have an “co-marketing arrangement” with some other exhibitor, or some manufacturer not even at the show.  The product may be a fixturing product sitting in the Quality area, and EDM product in the software area. The bottom line:  You might just see something in one of the other pavilions where products have been implemented or are just being introduced.  Keep your eyes open.  Many of the tooling & fixturing people put some very cutting edge technology on the machines on display and many don’t take a close look.


Make a list.  Start compiling problems and bottlenecks in your production.  Take a walk on your floor and take a look at which machines are running and which are not.  Why?  This is the very essence of “Lean”.  In the “Lean” process this is called Genchi Genbutsu: “Go out and see for yourself”.  Ask some questions. What’s holding the machine up.  Don’t take the answers at face value.  If the answer is “We’re waiting for the saw department” maybe you can move the parts into the milling department in larger sizes and smooth out the process.  The real key is to make a journal list of the problems.  If you don’t write them down you will forget them.  You don’t need to find a solution today and even if you do keep it on the list. It never hurts to look for better ideas. You DO want a list before IMTS. If you can get a list from several different people in your company with 3-4 items on it then you’ve succeeded. Why is this important?

Before you leave for the show create one final list and give everyone going a copy of the list. Make sure that they understand the problems.  The key to remember as you walk through the show is that the solution may not be the featured product in a booth. It may be a 20 year old product you have never seen. Or, it m it may be something else compeltely.  As an example, I was at the show several years ago and started looking at an exhibitors display.  I realized that the display was really the shipping crate and was mounted on hydraulic lift tables.  I brought a customer over to the booth and said “Here’s your solution”  The exhibitors products had nothing to do with the problem but someone in their facility figured out a way to make their life easier for shows and THAT necessitated an invention.  That invention was the solution to another problem. If you are aware of your bottlenecks you’ll be surprised where you might find solutions at IMTS.  Remember, there are an awful lot of very very talented people at the show. It’s a great place to learn.

One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, ‘What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?’”          -Rachel Carson

Don’t assume.

Don’t make foregone conclusions about any manufacturer.  I often hear “Oh, I saw their stuff a couple years ago, they don’t have anything we need.”  I’ve worked in a number of areas of North America and I’ll tell you from first hand experience that household names in California are completely unknown in North Jersey.  There are products used in Ontario that aren’t even distributed in Cleveland…. And vice-versa.  Why?  Because someone selling them either never penetrated the other market, an inferior portion of the product offering was shown which tarnished the company name, or the applications didn’t exist for the core product when it was first introduced.  Take a close look at what’s in the booths.  If you see some customer’s praising a company and you think  “Boy are they dumb, that stuff is junk” Maybe stop and give it a look.  You might be surprised.


At the end of the day everyone is ready to have dinner and enjoy some nightlife.  Having been to enough shows I’ve noticed how show participants many times avoid talking to exhibitors at night.  Exhibitors, on the other hand, are all talking amongst themselves.  In our industry many, many people know each other.  Take advantage of that.  Two people who used to work together are enjoying  a cold drink and “Say did you see that new product at such-n-such company?” “Yea, but Jim told me they can’t deliver for 6 months because of…”  Turns out both guys had worked at such-n-such and had the inside scoop.  Probably pretty good info to know if you where going to base a new production job around such-n-such’s products.

Talk to each other. “What do you do?” “What did you see?” “What’s cool?” can lead to “I’m looking for this and I found something at so-n-so’s booth”   “Oh well we saw this and it does it faster and it costs less” or “Hey, remember that thing we walked by and thought was great, but didn’t have a need,” turning to you, “You might want to check out…”

With all of the hype about social media these days you are in the hotbed of Social Media is all about.  Social Media is all about getting ideas and being in conversations.  IMTS is the best place in North America to have one-on-one, face-to-face conversations from people around the world.  You can learn new ideas, new ways of doing things…  I’ve been told “I get more out of talking to people at night sometimes than I do walking the show”  There are lots of eyes and ears out there. Take advantage of them.

    • Daniel de Caussin
    • May 15th, 2010

    Great comments Bernard!

    I have only one thing to add. I would suggest that you try the discount travel sites to reserve your room. As busy as it may seem, the great hotels still have open rooms to sell at a discount.


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