I attended Greenbuild in Philadelphia this year and now understand why many building product manufacturers question why they should attend. It’s because they don’t know how to make a successful show.
Here’s what I observed:
1. These people are No Shit Serious. The attendees are ahead of the manufacturers in terms of their technical knowledge and are constantly seeking to improve building performance.
2. Most manufacturers are dragging their feet. Manufacturers are waiting for Green to get big before they invest in the movement. This is a risky strategy as it opens the door for smaller competitors. Or even worse, it allows the possibility for their product category to be eliminated by a creative person from out of nowhere.
3. Building products are looked at holistically. Green consumers want to know ingredients, sources, manufacturing and logistics in addition to product performance. Product manufacturers, however, are still focused on performance alone.
4. The event was well done. There were many examples of show producers demonstrating how much they understood and respected the audience. Ideas like Pedicabs, encouraging people to walk and reuse their hotel room towels showed great attention to detail and appreciation for the audience.
5. The trade show portion was weak. Like the AIA show, the exhibit floor seemed to be the least important or popular part of the show. The attendees were there to learn, and they could learn more in seminars and on building tours than they could on the show floor. This was largely the fault of the exhibitors.
6. The speakers may be too smart. I felt that many of the presentations were like listening to Stewart on the Big Bang Theory in which he’s trying to show how smart he is rather than attempting to communicate or educate. The danger here is that Greenbuild may limit its growth by only appealing to the converted.
7. It’s not a serious show to many manufacturers. I saw many booths that had nothing to do with the show or the audience. It was like they decided “Green is important, so we should be there.” However, it wasn’t important enough for them to tailor the booth for the show. It seemed that most manufacturers decided they could just use a booth from another show and have it manned by regional reps who weren’t able to answer the questions of the attendees. There were also too many booths promoting the aesthetics of their products without saying anything about their Green features.
Here’s how I would make Greenbuild even better:
1. The show floor looked empty. I would cut down the size of the hall to create more density and energy on the show floor.
2. Educate the manufacturers. Hanley Wood should educate the manufacturers about how to successfully exhibit at Greenbuild as most of the manufacturers don’t have a clue.
3. Leave the salesmen at home. This may be a show where it’s better to staff the booth with technical people who can answer the questions of this audience.
4. No brochures. The majority of trade show handouts end up in a hotel room trashcan anyway. When you hand out a brochure at Greenbuild, you are showing the Green audience how little you really understand about what it means to be Green.
5. Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. Products that have some issues, like vinyl and foam, need to have a better message than, “We’re still here” or “You don’t understand that we really are Green.”
The Green building movement is here to stay, and it’s growing. The manufacturers that don’t embrace Green will find themselves losing sales very soon. Like Wayne Gretzky said, “You don’t want to go where the puck is, you want to go where the puck is going to be.” After attending Greenbuild, I can tell you that the puck is going to be Green.