Shining a spotlight on convenience services

Aug. 19, 2021

Rejoice! For the first time since April 2019, the National Automatic Merchandising Association will be holding its flagship trade show, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of its 2020 run in Nashville. This year—just as the coronavirus is brought under some control, and as more people are returning to work—The NAMA Show is back. It will be held from August 18 to 20 in New Orleans, and its timing could not be better.

The trade show takes place at New Orleans’ Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, located only minutes from the Big Easy’s French Quarter and the Mississippi River. The historic city, known for its festivals and galas, is an apt setting to celebrate the return of The NAMA Show. And there is more to cheer. This year, the trade show will be combined with NAMA’s Coffee Tea & Water (CTW) conference, the association’s education and training program for the office coffee service sector, which during “normal” times took place annually in the fall.

On the trade show floor, visitors will see and experience more new offerings than usual from food and beverage companies, equipment manufacturers and technology providers, given the two-year hiatus between events. In the education wing, participants will have access to 30 sessions featuring more than 70 speakers who will provide insights into and ideas for—operating in an economy that’s been changed by the pandemic.

NAMA’s annual trade show is a once-a-year opportunity to see the latest developments in technology, products and marketing for vending, micro markets and office coffee service. These efforts are driven by innovators' beliefs in the desires and needs of the market. It will be interesting to witness the intersection of the industry’s vastly improved capabilities and the changes in consumer behavior that took place after March 2020. The NAMA Show will help pinpoint where those lines cross.

IN PERSON VS. VIRTUAL

There’s enthusiasm for returning to in-person trade shows and client appointments, but there’s also consensus that virtual meetings are here to stay. In January, FTI Consulting published findings of a survey that asked 500 company decision-makers in the U.S. and UK about their trade show plans in 2021. Some 46% said they plan to increase their show budgets to above pre-pandemic levels. About 27% said they plan to keep budgets below pre-pandemic levels; among these, 49% indicated they will do so by reducing the number of events they attend.

Another study, which surveyed trade show exhibitors, found little eagerness for virtual events. Tradeshow Logic, an events solutions company, interviewed 343 exhibitors last year and 43% who had participated in a virtual trade show said they would not do so again. Some 67% of respondents who had participated in a virtual event said networking failed to meet their expectations.

We believe there will be a hybrid of in-person and virtual meetings for the foreseeable future, but nothing beats the real thing. The NAMA Show is all about networking and building relationships, face to face.