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Trade shows, today and tomorrow


April 16, 2010
By Frank Fulton

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We’d been front and centre in conceiving, promoting, and organizing the first national Canadian glass show – the International Metal and Glass Exposition.

We recently had a mini “what if?” meeting with a few directors of the Ontario Glass and Metal Association (OGMA) and the second VP of the Canadian Glass Association.  Representing OGMA were our fearless leader, Ennio Rea, Steve Gusterson from Alumicor, Brian Wiles – whose name always seems to keep popping up in this column – and yours truly. On the CGA side, none other than brother number three of five, Fred D. (a.k.a. Dave by some), brought forward the agenda for this little get-together.

The meeting went something like this: “If the CGA decides to have a countrywide conference in May 2011, or if the CGA decides to put on a Canadian trade show in May 2011, and if the CGA decides to hold this yet to be determined event in the Toronto area, would OGMA consider co-ordinating our annual spring golf tournament around the CGA event and open it up to all the participants? If only all the issues we have to deal with in life were this easy. Of course, OGMA would organize our golf date to coincide with the CGA event and support it as best we could.

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What was interesting was the ensuing discussion about the challenges of putting on a trade show, the current state of trade shows in general, and past trade-show experiences. The latter brought back a flood of memories for Ennio and I, as we’d been front and centre in conceiving, promoting, and organizing the first national Canadian glass show – the International Metal and Glass Exposition, or IMAGE ’86.

Looking back, I’d have to say that getting IMAGE done was among the most exhilarating and satisfying experiences of my business career. It was a huge success with amazing participation from companies across the country and from around the world.  But it sure didn’t happen by itself, and the challenges were much greater than we ever imagined when we dreamed up the idea of hosting a show.

Ennio, Bohdan Zubchinsky, Don Young (God rest his soul) and I first approached the organizers of the InterGlassMetal show in Washington, D.C., in 1983 and asked them if they would hold their biannual event in Toronto. Bohdan, a former offensive lineman with the Montreal Alouettes in the 1970s was our intimidation factor. In spite of this, they declined, preferring to keep their show in the United States. We still felt that we needed this venue in Canada, that the timing was right, and decided to plod ahead on our own.

The directors of the Metro Toronto Glass Association at the time spent a ton of time doing whatever it took to make this show a success. Everyone participated in various stages of organization and promotion. Everyone was committed. Everyone was excited. Even though we had enlisted a show organizing company to look after all of the show details, we were the ones who knew the industry and all the players. The potential for success or failure rested squarely on our shoulders, and nobody was prepared to let this fail.

I still remember the exhilaration at the IMAGE ’86 Grand Opening Gala dinner. The evening was a complete sellout with more than 300 glass industry people enjoying a fine menu of Canadian fare. We had the renowned Canadian comedian, Dave Broadfoot of Royal Canadian Air Farce fame, as our keynote speaker / performer. My mouth was dry and my hands were shaking as I stood up to address the hall, and I recall vividly the evil eye Dave gave me for being too long winded . . . he was getting antsy to get his hands on the microphone.

Why did we succeed?  The economy and the industry were booming at the time and there was no Internet to compete against containing everything there is to know about every product available on the planet. I’m afraid we’ll never see another glass industry trade show of the magnitude of IMAGE ’86 in Canada again, but only time will tell.


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