Coverings gives me a new outlook on trade shows

This year was my first time attending Coverings. I’d wanted to attend for a few years now but was never able to because it is usually held the week before the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS). As a kitchen and bathroom designer, KBIS is a very important show for me to attend but I can also see the value in attending Coverings since I specify tile for jobs all the time.
I decided to attend the show at the urging of my friend Paul Anater who assured me that this show was different than others. See, many other professionals in the generation X age range and I have grown tired of the traditional trade show format where exhibitors set up booths featuring their products and man the booth with sales people from their company to talk to about their product, which is no problem.
The problem for me is that that is the end of it. If you are interested in the products an exhibitor is showing, they swipe your badge and put you on a list to email and/or mail you materials regarding their products, shake your hand and send you off to the next booth That approach has always left me feeling slightly used. Most of the exhibitors at these types of shows are showing their latest products and many of them are great products that I have questions about. If I happen to find a representative who is willing to talk to me for any length of time about a product, I usually find out that they are debuting this product and they have no idea when it will be available or how much it will cost.
I understand sometimes you might debut a product that isn’t quite ready at a trade show but this happens all the time. Inevitably I get excited about a few products that aren’t out yet and my mail boxes get blown up with useless literature from the company about all the other products that they carry. Everything except for the product interested in. By the time the announcement has come for the initial product of my interest, I have either removed myself from that mailing list or found another manufacturer that offers a similar product.
This whole scenario drives me absolutely crazy! Exhibitors spend thousands, and in many cases millions of dollars on these trade shows, between the booth staff and logistics just to be there. Wouldn’t they want to make every dollar count? This endless cycle has industry professionals like me questioning why we should take time away from our jobs to travel to these shows only to be left disappointed again. But again I was assured that Coverings would be different and boy was Paul right!

The show has a very European feel to it which is no surprise since two of its five title sponsors are Tile of Spain and Ceramics of Italy which made for a different and very enjoyable atmosphere. Not to be outdone, the NTCA, TCNA, CDTA and their member brands put forth a great appearance as well. Upon first glance, the booths look very similar to other shows with fabulous displays of shiny new products. But upon entering the booth, they are drastically different. Most of them have some sort of a lounge area where you are invited to sit down and perhaps enjoy a coffee and biscotti while you discuss their products. In most cases the products are already available and they can give you a good idea what price you could expect to pay from your local distributor. Or if you are a tile and stone distributor you can actually buy product at the show. This was new to me. I have been to many trade shows in this industry and others, and had never seen products being bought and sold right there on the show floor. What a concept.
Tile of Spain and Ceramics of Italy are the associations for tile manufacturers of those particular countries which represent their industry as a whole. But they did not simply put their name on the banner and call it a day. They had the most elaborate booths and pavilions on the floor to showcase the works of the manufacturers they represent. Further, they invite you to stay and learn more about them while perhaps having a beer or a bite to eat. The food and drink was also traditional fair from their countries.
Other than the feel and hospitality of the show, Coverings involvement in social media and in the education of its attendees seems to be at the fore front. Coverings Central in the middle of the show floor was a great place where you could use the blogger corner to catch up on work or send a quick email, and just take a load off and regroup. My inaugural trip to Coverings was a very successful one on many fronts and I am excited to come back for more in the coming years.

Jeremy Parcells is a Brandenton, FL-based kitchen and bath designer. You can read his blog here and follow him on Twitter as @rjmcontractors.