Trade shows, their health and the perpetual question of whether to attend as an exhibitor, or indeed as a visitor, is always a topic of discussion in the electronics and general engineering sector. Just like we Brits like to moan about the weather, we frequently do the same about trade shows!

In the electronics sector , NEPCON ceased some years ago as did ECIF and numerous other lesser known shows in the UK. Some say it is that there just isn’t a strong ‘show culture’ in the industry while others say the size, and the now global relevance of German-based shows such as Electronica, and to a lesser degree Embedded World, PCIM and Productronica, have caused people to focus beyond the UK. Others say that the Internet, including engineering forums, powerful websites that can provide a wealth of data and support, plus the capability to transact online, have all had an impact on engineers’ and sales and marketers’ perceived need and desire to travel to tradeshows.

The very recent National Electronics Week in Birmingham was held in one truncated hall, and the anecdotal feeling on the booths was generally of a fairly low turnout. Meanwhile, earlier this year Embedded World in Nuremberg was packed to the rafters with not only German visitors, but masses of engineers and others from the UK and further afield; no doubt Electronica and the other German shows will be the same. For the sake of the UK electronics industry it would be good for shows like NEW to live on but marketing budgets, especially in the current uncertain climate, are not bottomless.

With all of the tools at our disposal in the digital age it can seem easy to solely use email and the Internet to gather knowledge, ideas and data to adequately complete design tasks. However, there really is still no substitute for occasional face-to-face interaction with others in your sector; things can happen, ideas can be hatched and inspiration gained when two people converse face-to-face! This can never happen in the same way, for whatever reason, via email or even telephone interaction.

So, parking the issue of the environmental impact of travel to one side, there really are good reasons for the trade show to survive, both in the UK and in wider geographies – for the good of innovation and to get us away from the ‘safety’ of our PC screens for just a few days or hours each year!