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Exhibitor Feedback Drives Improvements at Huge Trade Show

Wider aisles, more food options, and increased transportation created a better experience for the more than 60,000 attendees at the International Plastics Showcase.

NPE: The International Plastics Showcase is the world's largest plastics trade show and conference. Organizers created wider aisles this year to make it easier for the 60,000 attendees to navigate the show and to see demonstrations from exhibitors.
NPE: The International Plastics Showcase is the world's largest plastics trade show and conference. Organizers created wider aisles this year to make it easier for the 60,000 attendees to navigate the show and to see demonstrations from exhibitors.
Photo: Courtesy of Oscar & Associates

NPE: The International Plastics Showcase wrapped up a five-day run at the Orange County Convention Center on Friday, with more than 60,000 attendees from 23,000 companies attending the show to see the latest in plastics processing equipment, materials, and design. The main attraction at the event, which also includes educational seminars and networking opportunities, is the trade show, where this year more than 2,000 companies filled 1.1 million square feet of space.

The triennial exposition moved to Orlando in 2012 after four decades at Chicago’s McCormick Place. Organizers took what they learned from that event to improve the experience for attendees and exhibitors. “That was our first year in Orlando, so there wasn’t as much of a grasp of how traffic would flow,” said Brad Williams, director of sales and marketing for SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, which owns and produces the show. “Afterward, we definitely heard from our exhibitor committee. They felt the floor was a bit hard to navigate. They asked us to maintain aisles and create as straight a line of sight as possible.”

Unlike other shows in which exhibitors are focused on drawing attendees off the aisles and into their booths, Williams said at this event it’s understood that people may have to stand in the aisles in order to watch demonstrations being conducted on huge, multilevel machines. To facilitate viewing while also allowing others move around, organizers created several 20-foot-wide aisles. “They were kind of like main streets. With a 20-foot aisle, you’ll stroll. It creates an environment where people are more comfortable, being able to have line of sight from one end of the building to another,” Williams said.

Also based on feedback, organizers added six cafés to the show floor, ranging in size from about 2,500 square feet to 4,000 square feet. “You have that question of whether you’d rather sell [the space] and make some money. But we thought it was important to have those elements on the floor so people can stay on the floor, easily find food, and have some networking space,” Williams said. A new exhibitor lounge also provided a quiet place for exhibitors to take a break and have a snack.

Inadequate after-hours transportation drew complaints in 2012. So this time organizers worked with city officials and Mears Transportation to ensure there would be enough taxis running at night near popular dining and nightlife venues.

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