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The Del Mar Electronics & Manufacturing Show in late April attracted a strong crowd, and for good reason. This show, which started in 1995 and attracts approximately 400 exhibitors, takes a refreshing approach: It’s at the local fairgrounds, so the vibe is cool, relaxed and easier on the pocketbook. Attendance hasn’t yet reached the highest pre-COVID levels, but show organizer Doug Bodenstab said registrations improved over last year.
The show is built on a low-cost model: Booth space sells for $1,400, parking is free, and visitors are welcome to attend the technical and development sessions at no charge.
Barry Matties: Doug, how do you develop the sessions and why are they important?
Doug Bodenstab: They’re important for two reasons. First, people want to learn, and it gives them a reason to get out. We have everything from technical to self-help talks. About 70% of the speakers are exhibitors. Some companies do groups of high-end talks on microchip and face recognition. The nice thing about meeting in person is you get better feedback.
From the business side, it provides more validation for the show. If an engineer wants to attend, he can say, "Hey, there's a talk I want to attend," and his boss lets him out the door. Plus, it just adds more dimension to the show. Everything is free. We've learned throughout the years that charging for anything, it just doesn't work here. We've had some really high end people come and talk and they're a $1,000 and nobody shows up. So, everything is free and very easy going.
In addition to the sessions, there is a cross section of electronics manufacturing on the exhibit floor, including bare board fabricators, component suppliers, automation, EMS providers, 3D printers, and more. It’s clear this business model is working. Last year, Doug and his family added the Anaheim Electronics & Manufacturing Show. Here’s what Doug said about that.
Bodenstab: Yes, we expanded into Anaheim with our new Anaheim Electronics & Manufacturing Show. It is the same low-cost format, and still about components and circuit boards. It's at the Anaheim Convention Center, which is much more upscale but retains the low cost and format.
Matties: Why did you want to expand to Anaheim?
Bodenstab: Because of my family, really. I've always wanted to try it in Anaheim and we finally had our first one last year. It was pretty good. I knew we couldn't use a fairgrounds model in Anaheim like we do in Del Mar; it's just not the same thing. Del Mar Fairgrounds is a great, cool place, and the Anaheim Convention Center is very nice, but it does come with some problems. In Anaheim, we’ve been able to retain the low cost of the show, and we pay for parking—we just don't need to make that much money on this show. The big primary reason we started in Anaheim was because my daughter and her husband wanted to do shows again. I said, "Hey, let's do a show in Anaheim." That was it. I wouldn't have done it otherwise.
The next Anaheim Electronics & Manufacturing Show is scheduled for September. Having attended many regional events, I agree with Doug that having the Del Mar event at the fairgrounds is cool. The food vendors present a festival vibe, the relaxed environment is inviting, and the free parking was refreshing. The evening reception on the first day is loaded with food, music, and fun. This is clearly a model that is working.
When we spoke directly to the exhibitors, most said that they have been exhibiting there for years because the cost is low, and the networking opportunities are valuable. As we concluded the interview, I asked Doug what advice he would give to an exhibitor to have a successful event.
Bodenstab: I would definitely do some pre-show advertising so your people know you’re there. Come up with something fun and interesting; don't just stand at your booth thinking that people will walk up to it. You need to be energetic and excited.