On the occasion of the most recent industry event of the year; The AWFS in Las Vegas, I’m reminded of my many years in the machinery business and all of those trade shows. Over my career I’ve had the privilege of attending industry expositions in numerous countries and have come to a similar conclusion. My conclusion is that most attendees don’t maximize their time spent away from home and businesses and treat the trade show experience as a casual walk in the park. And yet where could you possibly have the opportunity to interact with some of our industries best minds, and see in action, the tools of our profession?
I cringe whenever I hear the term, “the Vegas machinery show” First of all, it’s not only about machinery and even more so, it’s not a show! This term is an insult to the legions of industry professionals who commit a significant amount of their time and money to bring their products and expertise to a city in the desert in July! And while I’m on this point — what about all the shop owners, managers and craftsmen out there who won’t take a couple days out of their schedule and a short trip to Nevada to improve on their knowledge of a chosen profession. For years I endured the complaints of unfair competition, high prices and low margins. And yet, when presented with the opportunity to see new hardware, tooling and equipment in one place, they don’t go.
My sticky note is this; admit that you don’t know what you don’t know. While you may be the master of all you do know, consider that the world is changing and those things that you do know are creeping towards obsolescence every day! I’m constantly amazed about what I don’t know. I still read the trade magazines and attend some events to stay current, and even with the extra time that I have in retirement I find it difficult to keep up with all that’s happening as our industry suppliers challenge us with innovation.
As I’ve mentioned before in an earlier sticky note, “if you get just a couple ideas from a trade show or similar event it’s worth it.” Attending AWFS is just one example of expanding your horizons. I was recently talking with a friend of mine whom I regard as possibly the brightest mind in the woodworking industry today, and he was quick to point out to me the many new products that he came in contact with at the show. I must say that he was almost overcome with excitement as he demonstrated for me a new fastening system he “discovered.” And this from a gentleman who has traveled the world as a woodworking professional. If he can be surprised imagine how exciting it could be for those of you burdened by a grueling daily schedule in the trenches? Had it not been for a few moments in the hallways of AWFS, my friend would still be struggling to take his fastening knowledge to the next level. No amount of “surfing the web” could have replaced this experience!
In conclusion, let’s agree that none of us can possibly be the master of all that is possible in this industry that we share. We truly need to accept that “You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know.” So get out there; attend a trade show with an inquisitive attitude and an explorer’s curiosity. Make work of visiting as many booths as you can. You can visit your “buddies” later, make a new friend and have a conversation in an area that challenges you.