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Podcast: Tips for PACK EXPO Las Vegas

In this podcast, Packaging World editor Pat Reynolds asks Pat Orioles, who is responsible for capital procurement at paper goods giant Kimberly-Clark, for a few tips on how to get good value from shows like the upcoming Pack Expo Las Vegas.
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• What my experiences have taught me first and foremost is that PMMI offers a tool set that’s probably better than any tradeshow sponsor I’ve seen. It starts with My PackExpo, which is made available to us prior to attending the show. My guidance to the show starts right there. I use that tool to support and build upon a broader plan, so that I have a plan of attack as opposed to just showing up at the show and winging it.

• I use these shows primarily for two purposes. One is technology scouting, and two it’s a very efficient way to meet my supply base. The challenge is in balancing the two. Whether you are exploring materials or you are focused on equipment, I would suggest that the same applies. You really need a balance between meeting time with suppliers and free-flow exploration time to come away feeling that you’ve had an effective show. I’ve come away from shows where I had lots of meetings and very little show time, and I left feeling disappointed somehow. I felt like I missed something. So I am really learning now to balance that explore time with the meeting time. Pack Expo is a Who’s Who of the packaging space, and you don’t get that kind of opportunity very often.

• When it comes to that exploration side, what I find tremendously helpful is to look outside my industry for both insights and cross-over technology. We have nothing to do in confectionery, for example, and little to do in pharma. But I will spend quite a bit of time in both those areas because we are constantly innovating and improving products and looking for new opportunities. We use shows to look for new channels for our existing products or for things we have in the pipeline, and the solutions we’re looking for always involve packaging. It may not be packaging that resonates within the organization or that resembles how we traditionally go about packaging our products. But if you look elsewhere in non-traditional spaces, it may put something in front of you that you haven’t really seen or considered before.

• Another thing to keep in mind is to consider attending with people outside of your immediate department. If you attend with somebody who has a different lens, you may find them very helpful in terms of how they see packaging. It helps me look at my job and my requirements differently by bringing in that new perspective.

• I’ve also found that when you summarize your findings quickly either after each day or soon after returning home, noting all that you saw, the supplier details and, more important, what was unique or different about particular suppliers stands out more clearly. It then becomes easier to connect their offering specifically with our business needs.

• Anything I as an attendee would recommend exhibitors might do slightly differently to better meet attendee needs? I think exhibitors should have it clear in their minds just what they are. If their purpose in life is to be a me-too, then be proud of that and state it accordingly. On the other hand, if being unique, differentiated, and higher in value is your strength, then build on that. Either way, exhibitors should know their markets and their potential customer base well enough to know why they would appeal to the attendees they encounter at the show.

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