The tradeshow circuit: Making the rounds of industry events brings valuable insights


Have you attended a tradeshow since ShoWest? If you haven’t, there are several recently concluded shows you should consider for next year, and several coming up this summer and fall that you might want to look into.

Tradeshows help us connect with new products, industry vendors and peers, as we have mentioned in the past. The lineup of useful shows is important to consider in travel schedules, some of them related to our industry and others more independent but nonetheless pertinent.

In May, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) holds its national convention at the McCormick Center in Chicago. I saw many of my peers there from the theatre industry, and for good reason. New ideas, new products and fresh concepts were plentiful. I have written about this show before—it offers a great opportunity to think outside the box. As more and more theatres consider increasing their menu offerings, this show is a good place to both see and taste products from a very large group of vendors that cater to the restaurant industry. If you didn’t get the chance to attend this year, think about it for next year.

Another great reason to visit this show is that you can stay an extra day and also attend the National Confectioners Association (NCA) annual show, the Sweets & Snacks Expo. This is also a great venue to pick up new ideas in the snack and confection category, a mainstay of the concession stand. This show’s exhibitors include all the large candy companies as well as many companies that you might not know of, but who manufacture and supply many of the candy items in the retail marketplace. It’s a tradeshow that allows you to connect with the companies that are partners with you to serve up all the candy items your customers know and love and also help develop new items to introduce. The perk is that you get to sample the goodies, just like at the NRA. I find this to be quite enticing.

In July, the National Association of Concessionaires (NAC) will hold its annual convention in Houston, in conjunction with its show partner, the International Association of Auditorium Managers (IAAM). The NAC focuses on the concession industry across many different types of businesses, including theatres, auditoriums, amusement parks and universities. The tradeshow attracts representatives from all of these as well as suppliers of all types of food and beverages. It’s a great place to spend time with peers who also spend their days providing and improving quality service for their concession customers.

There are also regional NATO shows that take place from August through September and are well-attended with both theatres and suppliers. ShowSouth focuses on the Southeast region and will be staged in August just south of Atlanta. CineShow focuses on the Texas and Oklahoma markets and will take place in Dallas in September. Also in September, the Geneva Convention, focusing on the upper Great Lakes region, will be held just north of Chicago at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The Rocky Mount show, taking place at the beginning of October, focuses on the Rocky Mountain region including Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. And there are other NATO regional meetings that have begun to include tradeshows or at least table-top displays. For more information on these shows, visit

The annual ShowEast convention will again be staged in October in Orlando, Florida. ShowEast really focuses on the movie side of our industry, with much of the schedule filled with screenings of films that will be released over the holiday season and into the following year. This show has been a good counterbalance to ShoWest, as the two events are about six months apart and each attracts a large gathering of theatre professionals in one place.

All of the above-mentioned shows take place in the U.S., but there are also cinema industry shows all around the world. There are regional shows just as in the U.S., but there are also market-wide shows including ShowCanada in Vancouver, Cinema India Expo in Bombay, and Cinema Expo International in Amsterdam. For everyone doing business in any of these markets, attending these tradeshows is just as crucial. Market tradeshows allow many people to come together in one place and conduct business instead of racking up those travel miles. The year will finish out with CineAsia in Hong Kong in December. This show attracts theatre chains and suppliers from Korea to Australia and has become an important tool for business in the Asian market.

Although May and June have passed, there are many opportunities left throughout the year to visit these tradeshows and profit from the experience. Staying home and only communicating via phone or e-mail can only go so far. Meeting with partners in person, and seeing and tasting new product offerings cannot be undervalued for concession professionals.

Please send comments to Anita Watts at