The return of the onsite convention
The first Modex convention I attended was about 10 years ago and I was blown away by the vast set up! There were vast rows of vendors each with a more elaborate booth than the next. Models graced replicated showrooms handing out literature, hosting coffees or happy hours. Mini warehouses displayed the latest in automated technology and products. Marketing swag flowed freely as each booth was packed with more potential clients then the salesforce had time to speak with. Some of the spaces even had multiple floors with seating to make deals. Networking was easy as the aisle were so packed that it was impossible not to meet the attendees from all over the world. Modex hits the Atlanta World Convention Center every two years with the exception of 2020. This being the first time since Covid I was curious to see what this year would yield.
Modex brought the sauce
The Modex convention centers around innovations for the supply chain industry but it is also where people come to network and most importantly make deals. This is part of what makes some of the booths so elaborate. This year was no different when it came to levels of floor displays. Everything from regular sized booths to recreated mini warehouses where they could show off the latest technology filled the convention center showroom. . ( my favorite had a little putting green that I DID NOT win prizes at!) There were plenty of stair case included two or three story show rooms with seating for deal negotiating. This year they added a “back yard barbecue area” inside the convention center with food trucks, corn hole, basketball and football arcade simulators and locker phone charging stations, the perfect place to decompress. They had guest speakers including Shaquille O’Neal and a an additional networking event with comedian Preacher Lawson. In many of the displays one could view the latest and greatest innovations for safer more productive workplaces.
Missing in Action
The only thing missing this year was the crowd. In the past it was nearly impossible to get from one side of the convention to the other, the crowds of people checking out all the trends blocked the aisle. This year there were a few people strolling down each aisle with plenty of maneuvering room. Restricted travel (people come from all over the world to vend and attend Modex), continued covid fears and perhaps more unknown factors made this year’s show floors feel empty. There were certainly advantages and disadvantages for both the attendees and vendors.
Glass half full
One of the clear advantages for the attendees was more mobility and easier viewing of products. There were still clusters of people in a few locations. One booth had a retired football player signing free footballs and another had created a game show, they both gathered a crowd. The best booth I attended had a wall sized space invader game integrated with a hand scanner they were selling, they had no line at all so I was able to walk right up.. The sales people had more time to chat and I got to see some pretty amazing innovations and some that were just for show. I watched an automated device pour a beer into a glass, it was quite a process but took a bit more time than one might spend pouring it themselves. The highlight for me was one of the salespeople inviting me to the private vendor party they were having that night at the Mercedes Benz Stadium. They rented out the whole stadium, had a band, food, drinks and private tours which means I might have or might not have danced in the end zone!
The other half of the glass
The concern I had was for the vendors but surprisingly the ones I talked to had done incredibly well over the four day convention. One vendor said he made everything he needed to on the first day. That may have been luck of the draw on who I talked to but they indicated that the attendees who were there came ready to make deals. Maybe the sparser crowd helped them to identify who to pursue for sales. In terms of networking it did impact my overall experience. Networking with those I am viewing a booth with is an easy way to meet someone new. I still had plenty of people to speak with but I had to work a bit harder to make those contacts. The energy was still there in terms of excitement over the innovations but still felt a bit hollow.
What the future holds
With covid came a slew of expressions we all wish we could not hear again. The “new normal” is one that I am sure we are all over hearing but that is where we are. Events have restarted but they are not quite what they once were. Maybe they will get back to what they once were or maybe they won’t ever be exactly the same. We have adapted to many new ways of doing things, and events may have some modifying necessary for us to get the most from them. As for the new innovations check out the Outsource Logistics Instagram for videos in the next few weeks!