2014 International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineering at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Ma

Always searching for new opportunities to learn where science and laboratory industries are going, I recently attended the 2014 Annual ISPE-Boston Products Show at beautiful Gillette Stadium. Arriving at the upper floor concourse mid-day, my breath was immediately taken away by the ceiling-to-floor panoramic vista of the stadium’s playing field. It was an empty field, with no one in the seats, but you could feel the enormity of the team and their impact on the community. Initially, I felt the guilt of leaving my TTE Laboratories colleagues behind. But it was clear that this was going to be a good day.
During my initial walkthrough, I realized that this show was large, expansive and had a pulse, different from other shows. I could feel it coursing through all that were present. Was it the venue, or the fact that it was a single day event? Perhaps it was due to the extremely tight alignment of the vendor display tables, arranged in close proximity to ensure all those who walked by were within arm’s length of the reps they approached. The energy was high.

I noticed several long food lines, with trays and trays of shrimp and cocktail sauce at the head. I don’t personally jump for shrimp, but the business prospect, to whom I was speaking, moved our conversation swiftly to the end of the line. Soon after, I reached the end of the east side of the show. I made my way through the end zone walkway, toward the visitor’s west side of the stadium, where the show continued, almost as a mirror image of the east side. On my way, I looked over to the players’ practice field, where I noticed some Patriot players walking in sweats across the grass. I saw Gronk (you can’t miss him) and someone pointed out that the ‘guy in the hat’ was Brady. That was cool!

Making my way through the west side, my attention was the aim of the exhibitors, to which I gladly obliged. This show was crowded and busy, as I like them, and how these shows are supposed to be. Vendors were well represented, many with several representatives to handle the high visitor traffic. Visitors? There were many; representatives of the pharmaceutical industry’s powerful local presence. After all, this is Boston. The next thing I felt was a tap on the shoulder. When I turned around, it was a hostess, serving delicious hors d’oeuvres. Wow! People were smiling, eating and drinking as relationships were being created all around me.

I suddenly began to question my perspective that vendor shows were dying off, going the way of the house telephone. Was this too hasty a judgment? Was I completely wrong in believing that suppliers are simply launching their products, ideas and services online, where their reach far exceeds any product show, at a fraction of the cost? As I reached the end, my attention was drawn to two Patriot cheerleaders, posing for pictures next to a live jazz band. This show was different – seemingly a success for all who had arrived – an epic event with high end views, food and drink. Perhaps vendor shows will survive. After all, there is nothing that can replace the value of face-to-face interaction to build business relationships. But if the value of the vendor show is diminishing, this show says otherwise.  I thought, are vendor shows really phasing out? The jury is still out, but I decided to hold off on that thought.  Just then, the food lines filled again. Lunch was then served.

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