Many trade shows I’ve attended in the U.S. in recent years would have loved to have seen as many people in the aisles as attended ISH’s first day when a snowstorm closed the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, and snarled roads leading to the city. Nevertheless, the uptick in attendance on ISH’s second day on March 13 was clearly obvious to anyone trying to get from one end of the show to the other, or even walk between two of the 10 massive exhibit halls.

The fully booked exhibit halls cover 258,000 square meters of space. In 2013, a total of 2,434 exhibitors have booths, which represent an increase from the 2,382 exhibitors here two years ago. Of the total, 1,021 exhibitors are German companies, which are 42 fewer than in 2011. The number of non-German exhibitors increased in 2013 to 1,413, which are 94 more than in 2011.

Despite the heightened international presence at the show, I arrived at the press conferences of two major German companies only to discover that they would be given in German without translation into English or other languages. Press conferences I had attended the day earlier came equipped with headsets through which I could hear English translations of the presenters speaking in German. The fact that the press conferences on the second day were scheduled within 15 minutes of each other in buildings on opposite ends of the crowded exhibition made my discovery even more disappointing.

Fortunately, the second press conference took place just outside the exhibit hall that housed many of the pump manufacturers. The spirit of fun in the booths in the hall seemed to increase along with the attendance numbers on the show’s second day.

Grundfos employed a magician who incorporated the company’s new MAGNA3 into his magic act. People gathered at the Wilo booth where two monitored rowing machines pitted competitors from the show floor in a feat of strength. Another test of strength at a nearby booth invited visitors to strike a punching bag as hard as they could. A more sedate approach took place in a booth where visitors were given a putter and asked to hit a golf ball through the openings in pumps that had been set up, miniature-golf style, on a putting green. Much of this activity was fueled by beer, soft drinks, coffee and snacks in cafes within individual booths or on the show floor.

The playful atmosphere wasn’t confined to one exhibit hall. One hall away, Wohler employed young women dressed in a blue superhero costume who distributed energy bars and beverages to booth visitors. The “Capt. Wohler” superhero theme was intended to demonstrate the strength and durability of the company’s tools, including new pipe inspection and monitoring equipment.

A similar message of strength and durability was on display four halls away in the booth shared by Irwin Industrial Tools and Lenox Tools. A power tool was used to drill holes in the hood of a car, with a “new” car being brought into the booth on each of the five days of the show.

Exhibitors appeared as happy as attendees on ISH’s second day as the sun came out and a comfortable degree of crowded normalcy returned to the show.


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