The MTT Trade Show

So, you're a good technogeek with something to sell, and you want to show your stuff at the MTT Trade Show. Well, you're not alone. Something like 700 companies exhibited their wares last year, and you too can be one of them. All it takes is (if you haven't guessed by now) a little planning and a lot of money. 

How do I get a trade-show booth for my company?

    MP Associates runs the trade show. See the official site for contact information. Companies are assigned priority for choosing booth space based on the length of time they have participated in the show. As you might expect, everyone wants the good locations; if you are new to the show, you'll have to settle for what you can get. 

    Booth negotiations for the show begin immediately after the previous year's show. 

It's three weeks before the symposium. Can I still get a booth?

    Your chances are about the same as finding a virgin at a Hell's Angels convention. Still, you might get the annual award for bad planning. (Hey, it's still visibility!) You'd be amazed how many times this question is asked of Steering Committee members, who have nothing to do with the show, a month before IMS week. 

    Again, call the organizer and see what can be arranged. Be prepared to accept whatever might be available.  

How much does it cost to participate?

    Anywhere from a few thousand USD to many tens or even hundreds of thousands of USD, depending on how grand your booth is. Some deep-pocket companies show up with huge, professionally designed booths, a couple dozen salesmen, and trainloads of equipment. They often take up ten times the floor space of more modest outfits. These guys probably drop several $100K on the show, once they count up all the expenses. Still, even in these cases, the break-even point may be only one or two sales so, for them, it may still be cost-effective.

But everything else is reasonably priced, right?

    Hahahahahahahahaha! You can be confident that the convention center will do its best to separate you from your cash. Rental furniture and equipment will cost 75% of the new price. Labor costs will be larded. Many convention centers have union labor, so you will not be allowed to move your own stuff, and you'll have to pay the center's extortionary labor rates. Bend over. 

Are there any rules against using "T & A" to attract customers?

    There are some rules about what can be done in booths (call the organizers for more info), but most people don't know them and don't run afoul of them anyway. Engineers are like that. I doubt that there are rules against T&A, but you have to remember that MTTers are a pretty staid bunch, so the trade-show kinkiness common in other industries is likely to backfire here. No one does it. I have seen such things as a skit, a magician, and a musician playing a harp, but none of these shows returned the following year. 

    In MTT trade-show booths, you'll see the occasional hot mama, but more often you'll be met by an old fart with bad breath and an ill-fitting suit that's older than half the attendees. And, it's just as well: if a booth were full of gorgeous babes, you'd have a tough time getting at the cool equipment, with all the salesmen's tongues draped across the floor. 

Is the trade show just for microwave hardware companies?

    Not at all. It's for anyone who might find it useful. Among the exhibitors are 
    • Trade journals.
    • Universities (shopping for good grad students to enslave).
    • An occasional government agency (e.g., the FCC. I can't remember if I saw them at the IMS or at some other microwave show, but does it matter?)
    • Fabrication services such as electroforming and precision machining.
    • Consulting companies and purveyors of engineering services.
    • Software for design CAD, file conversion, and similar things. 
    The exhibitors are mostly hardware companies. These other guys (especially the university reps) are usually stuffed into the worst booths in the back of the hall, where no one sees them. Still, they seem happy. Must be the free beer at the reception.