World of Concrete

Continuing Education Units at Trade Shows: Why Not?

The three days I spent visiting exhibits at World of Concrete trade show felt like a trip to a major museum or browsing the stacks in a university library; everywhere I turned there was something new and exciting to learn.
At the Loos & Co. booth I was introduced to the different types of wire rope and how they are made. My "teacher" went on to regale me about the history of the product from John Roebling's 19th Century Allegheny Portage Railroad to the latest aviation applications.
Yet I may not be able to count any of my 36+ hours at the show towards continuing education units (CEU) I need to maintain my architectural license or my certified construction specifier status.  The continuing education criteria, established by state licensing boards and administered by AIA and other groups, are complex and impose burdensome paperwork requirements to get courses approved. While CEU can be earned through self-study, the design professional has to substantiate the educational value and an individual's initiative can be denied by regulators.
Cemex and several other organizations conducted a demonstration of roller compacted concrete and discussed quality control measures. While I had read about the technique, seeing it being installed was highly educational.
The educational value went beyond ordinary commercial transactions and networking to become brief master classes taught by the recognized authorities in their particular fields. When traffic in the booth was light, they would gladly spend a few minutes holding forth. The examples on this page are but a few of the many lessons received. Note that many of them would have earned me the more stringent health, safety, and welfare (HSW) credits if they had been presented in an approved course.
A gentleman form Oklahoma Wire and Steel took time to explain that concrete reinforcing is produced in coils. Fabricators either straighten the material and cut it to length, or they fabricate it into stirrups, rings, or the other shapes required on a construction site. Huge machines have largely replaced manual methods of cutting and bending rebar.
Many trade shows have concurrent classes that offer CEU credits. My argument is that this should be expanded to give credits for time spent on the trade show floor. Exhibitors are the financial underpinning of trade shows and want to maximize attendance.So it is in the interest of the building products industry to establish procedure for attendees to earn CEUs while visiting the show floor. Alternatively, show producers or trade association sponsors could take the lead in negotiating this change in CEU criteria.
Even though they knew I was not a potential customer for their equipment, the pair working the Sensocrete booth explained, with great passion, how to improve quality control of concrete.

One can argue that some trade show visitors are more interested in swag or social interactions than in educational benefits. But these same individuals can sit through a lunch time course and get nothing out of it but calories and an unjustified CEU.
Continuing education requirements are based on hour-long classes. Trade show lessons are necessarily brief, but no less powerful It took the rep at BASF only a few minutes to explain how their new "crack-reducing admixture" challenges fundamental assumptions about concrete performance and give me a sizable nugget of knowledge to digest.
The CEU divines differentiate CEU programs that involve face-to-face exposure with a qualified instructor from "distance learning activities" like reading an article or watching an online video. Distance learning activities require students to pass a ten-question quiz to demonstrate that they understand the material presented. Perhaps this model can be used for awarding credit for trade show time; attendees would have to submit a declaration of what they learned at the show. Another approach would be to discount show attendance so that an hour on a trade show floor would be worth only a quarter of a CEU.
A one-on-one master class with an Ward Malisch from the American Society of Concrete Contractors provided an authoritative answer to my question about cement hydration.  Figure above, from NIST, shows "concrete at four different length scales: upper left is concrete, upper right is mortar, lower left is cement paste, lower right is C-S-H." (See earlier post)

Are you ready to mount a campaign to accomplish this? Give me a call so we can plot strategy.

Concrete Corrigendum

The integrity of a building product manufacturer (and of its consultants) requires setting the record straight when it makes an error. I have written numerous articles and pieces of product literature with statements similar to the following:
"When portland cement hydrates, it yields calcium silicate hydrate (CSH) crystals that interlock to give concrete strength." (Chusid, Structural Engineer)
This is incorrect. CSH is a gel, not a crystal.
"Illustration of various steps in the digital-image-based cement hydration model showing, from bottom to top, initial cement particles in water (black), highlighting (white) of all cement particle surfaces in contact with water, generation of one-pixel diffusing species, and hydrated images at ~32% and 76% hydration, respectively (C 32 is red, C2 S is blue, C3A is bright green, C4AF is orange, gypsum is pale green, C-S-H is yellow, CH is dark blue, and aluminate hydration products (ettringite, monosulfoaluminate, and C3 AH6) are green)." (Bentz, Journal of the American Ceramic Society)
While conducting research prior to writing the various publications, I have seen hydrated cement paste described as both crystalline and gelatinous. It was easier for me to visualize the former because I am familiar with hard, dense, and strong crystals such as quartz and table salt. My mental image of a gel, however, was gelatine -- a substance too insubstantial, I thought, to explain concrete.

I now appreciate that, with respect to cement hydration, "The C-S-H gel is not only the most abundant reaction product, occupying about 50% of the paste volume, but it is also responsible for most of the engineering properties of cement paste. This is not because it is an intrinsically strong or stable phase (it isn't!) but because it forms a continuous layer that binds together the original cement particles into a cohesive whole." (Thomas and Jennings) Cement paste's properties as a gel help explain phenomena such as concrete creep (deformation over time) and swelling that occurs when alkali-silica reaction causes concrete to crack.

Perhaps only petrologists can fully appreciate the difference between a crystal and a gel, yet it is key to understanding concrete's performance or failure. It is also a crucial distinction for specifiers trying to interpret competing claims by producers of admixtures, supplementary cementitious materials, and concreting processes.

I thank Ward Malisch, PE, PhD, FACI, technical director for American Society of Concrete Contractors, for explaining this to me during a conversation at the recent World of Concrete tradeshow.

By the way, "corrigendum" has a similar meaning to "erratum" except that the former is best applied to an error by an author while the latter is an error in the production of a publication.

Chusid is "Innovator of Century"

I am posting this from World of Concrete trade show in Las Vegas.

BASF has a gimmick in their booth that actually makes sense from a promotional standpoint.  I stood in-front of a greenscreen while my portrait was photographed. Then I was offered my choice of Las Vegas-themed backgrounds, each of which had a BASF branding message. By the time I got back to my hotel, I was able to download the image.

By putting the prospect into the frame, BASF created a piece of promotional literature the prospect will keep forever. I bet I am not the only booth visitor that posted the photo to Facebook or sent it home to the family, helping to spread the BASF brand. 

To see site in action, go to Photographic mosaics may have other applications in your business. To learn more, visit the developer,
The promotion was so much fun, I visited booth a second time.

How NOT to use Flash Drives in Press Kits

It has become popular to use "thumb-size" flash drives in press kits. Having the copy and photos on a thumb drive makes it easy for an editor to transfer the data directly into a story, without having to go onto your website or open a CD.

Thumb drives are also a type of "swag" that will attract the attention of an editor. In the press room at the recent World of Concrete (WOC) trade show, I watched editors browse through press kit to see what was worth the effort of hauling home; press kits with flash drives went right into their goodie bag.

But here are a few pointers about how to do it wrong:

- Not using printed media, too. If you just put a bunch of flash drives on the press room table, your message will not be available to the editor during the trade show. Use your paper literature to motivate the editor to visit your booth and to stimulate buzz at the show.

- Not putting editable text on the drive. If you want the editor to run your story, include the press release in a format that the editor can cut and paste. Some of the press kits I saw had pdf files that were locked to prevent text from being copied. What editor will take the time to re-key your article into their word processor?

- Not including an overview sheet on the thumb drive. When I opened one of the flash drives from the trip, all it showed me were file names like:  2450GR, RT24, and 830RT. These may very well be model numbers for new products, but it is off-putting to a busy editor that doesn't know your company well. File names like, "Pervious_Concrete_Admixture" or "New_Sales_Manager" will be more easily understood.

- Not using the color of your brand. Flash drives come in all colors, and can be imprinted in any color. Use colors that support your branding.

- Not printing the name of the company on the data stick. The editor will probably erase your content and reuse the data stick for his or her own purposes. If the name of your company is printed on the face of the drive, at least the drive will continue to provide brand awareness.

- Not including links to your website on the thumb drive. The press release is supposed to be a tease that encourages an editor to go deeper into your story. Put live links into the digital press releases to invite editors to learn the rest of your story.

- Not indicating the name of the trade show. A well formatted press release should have a release date and, if the announcement is being made at a trade show, the show name should be indicated. Yet this information was missing on many of the flash drives I collected.  Compare that to naming the drive "WOC" (instead leaving it named "untitled") and placing downloads inside a folder named, "World of Concrete 2012."

- Not reporting any "News". I attended a press conference where the speaker had poor presentation skills. Afterwards, I asked an editor in attendance what she thought, and she replied that she didn't mind the bad speaker because, "at least he had real news to share." Many press kits just rehash the corporate brand or past glories. It may make the Communications Director feel good, but it is not much value for an editor looking to provide meaningful content to readers.

- Not including press releases: One flash drive was filled with brochures, animations, photos, slide shows, and sales sheets. Perhaps the exertion of putting all that together wore out the PR department, because they didn't include a press release.

- Not putting data on the flash drive. It happens.

World of Concrete Press Conferences

Press Conference reservations at World of Concrete have been opened up.  (  If you'll be at World of Concrete with a new product, or you have product news, a press conference is a great way to get a little publicity.  In past years, we have helped clients set up press conferences, prepare powerpoints, and alert magazine editors about the conference, and usually seen 2-5 stories get into print as a direct result.  A press conference can be one of the great publicity bargains.

Are You Ready for World of Concrete?

World of Concrete 2012 kicks off just 4 months from now.  When are you going to start getting ready?
A little planning now saves big headaches at the show!
If you're exhibiting at WOC, now is the time to be putting the pieces in place, so you can make World of Concrete work for you to its maximum potential.

* Is your booth designed?
* Is your sales collateral up-to-date?
* Have you written, shot, and edited the videos you're going to show in your booth?
* Do you have an up-to-date press kit to put in the Press Room, so trade magazine editors can learn about your products and your news?
* Have you booked a press conference to tell the world about your new products and innovations?
* If you're giving a seminar or continuing education presentation, is it written and designed?
* Are you going to do anything to encourage customers and prospects to visit your booth -- like direct mail, pre-show advertising, or at-show sponsorships?
* Who will be staffing your booth? Are they trained in booth skills?

Light a fire under your people, so they can tackle these issues bit by bit during their downtime, and not cut into business later with a big last minute crunch.

Exhibiting at any tradeshow is a big investment.  Support it with the proper prep, so you can make it pay off.  (And if you need help, don't hesitate to call on Chusid Associates.)

Chusid Client wins Innovative Product Award

Hanley Wood has announced that the new SPD Protector by Lythic Solutions, has received the Editors Choice award in their Most Innovative Product competition held during World of Concrete. Chusid Associates helped Lythic Solutions with their entry into this contest.

Contests such as this give building product manufacturers great PR exposure. The award provides an important testimonial, it gets announced by the sponsoring magazine, and the manufacturer can use the award on its website, product labels, and press releases.

Remember: You can't win unless you enter.

The Lighter Side of Concrete - an occasional series


Concrete is the most heavily used building material in the world.  In many applications, there seem to be no practical alternatives.  But concrete, like every other material, is being re-evaluated in terms of its environmental impact.  The concrete industry is working on ways to green its products.

In the meantime, I would like to suggest a widely available, rapidly-renewable-resource-based concrete alternative: oatmeal

The possibilities of this product were suggested to me late one night during World of Concrete, in the bar of one of the lesser-known Vegas hotels. I awoke the next morning with the question pounding in my head: Could it really be as simple as adding a heating element into the mixer of a concrete truck?

The purpose of this article, then, is to examine the feasibility of converting the North American readymix industry to construction-grade oatmeal.

The Material
Construction grade oatmeal should not be confused with the more common, wimpy "rolled oats" materials such as Quaker Oats (which are only acceptable for stucco and other non-loadbearing applications), nor Instant Oats, which are more suitable as a drywall-mud substitute.  Only steel-cut oats, frequently sold as "Irish Oatmeal," achieve sufficient structural properties to be considered a true concrete alternative.

The similarities are obvious.  Both materials are mixed into a viscous slurry that can be placed with a shovel, poured, or pumped (although pumping requires very high pressure equipment in the case of Irish Oatmeal).  Both contain a combination of a cementitious material and hard aggregate (if you've ever chewed Irish Oatmeal, you know about the aggregate.)  Both harden into an artificial stone within a few hours, and keep hardening for weeks or even years.

Vive La Difference!
To the casual observer, they seem like almost identical materials.  The differences are significant, however, and should not be overlooked.

First and foremost, portland cement concrete is a setting-type material, whereas oatmeal is a drying-type material, achieving hardness as its internal moisture evaporates.  This means that, as long as a cover is placed on the ready-mix truck to prevent evaporation, the oatmeal mix never gets too old to be used, no matter how bad traffic delays get.  In fact, due to the normal cooking time of oatmeal, any mix younger than 45 minutes is probably not ready for placement.  In some of our more congested cities, oatmeal may soon be the only viable readymix product.

Water can be added freely at the jobsite to keep the oatmeal workable without compromising ultimate strength.  This is in stark contrast to concrete jobs, where adding water is sometimes the stuff that lawsuits are made of.  In hot, dry regions, where concrete is often negatively affected by high placement temperatures and premature drying, oatmeal just becomes a rapid-hardening material at a bargain price.
Admixtures are sometimes used with concrete to accelerate or retard set-times, or to make the mix more workable; none of these are necessary (or useful) with oatmeal.  A common oatmeal admixture is CSH (cinnamon, sugar and homogenized milk), which actually functions both as integral pigmenting and additional cementitious material.  All three constituents are rapidly renewable resources, so that while the admixture is making the product more brown, it's also making it more green.
Fiber is sometimes added to concrete to enhance tensile strength and control cracking. Fiber is already naturally present in oatmeal, not only improving strength but, according to some studies, possibly lowering cholesterol.

Another important difference is mix design.  The strength of concrete is determined by controlling the ratio of water, cementitious materials, fine and coarse aggregate.  A high cement ratio yields stronger concrete, but cement is also the most expensive ingredient.  This gives both contractor and producer an economic incentive to use the lowest-strength mix acceptable, to save on cement costs.  Oatmeal includes both cementitious material and aggregate premixed, and all excess water evaporates, so the only strength-determining factor is how long it's cooked.  Any strength-related economic incentive, therefore, revolves around cooking-energy consumption.  Undercooked oatmeal releases an inadequate amount of cementitious material, so the mix lacks strength.  However, overcooked oatmeal breaks down the aggregate, also compromising strength.  As The Three Bears told you long ago, medium cooking is optimal.  It could be standardized throughout the industry, allowing equally high strength for every batch, with no financial disadvantage.

It is worth noting another difference.  Cement hydration in concrete releases heat, which increases after placement, sometimes creating cracking problems.  With oatmeal, the heat is put into the material during mixing, and gradually drops from then on. 

Oatmeal does undergo considerable drying shrinkage.  However, it is less of a problem than with concrete, since additional wet oatmeal can be added subsequently, and it will bond fully with previous pours.

Supply is an issue.  North America has vast amounts of land suitable for oatmeal agriculture.  However, in many regions, suitable aggregate for concrete is becoming more scarce, and price is on the rise.

It can be readily seen that oatmeal offers numerous advantages over conventional portland cement concrete.  Probably, the slowness of adoption is only due to the industry's notorious suspicion of new technologies, and the general tendency towards caution among the institutions that promulgate building codes.

The one possible downside to oatmeal is that it can be vulnerable to moisture.  Large quantities of water will tend to soften it (although, if you've ever left the pot to dry overnight and then tried to clean it, you may doubt this claim).  This means that oatmeal may be unsuitable for some extremely moist environments such as the Pacific Northwest, the ocean floor, or along the Gulf Coast.  In some of those places, however, it may offer an unexpected plus: a homeowner wiped out by flooding won't starve, since his family can always eat the foundation.

For the previous installment of this column, click here.

Should you buy your friends?

In the lead-up to World of Concrete 2011, Wacker Neuson ran a fairly aggressive (and judging by their Twitter traffic, successful) campaign to increase their pool of Facebook friends. In short: they bribed them. This tactic can be very successful, but for most small to medium-sized manufacturers I recommend against it.

The plan was simple: take your picture at their booth, upload it to their Facebook page, and win (potentially) an iPad! There was also a related campaign encoura- ging Twitter users to retweet announce- ments about the contest, again by offering an iPad.

This is an impressively well designed cross-platform campaign; it was set to drive traffic to their Facebook page, Twitter stream, and World of Concrete booth; not bad for marketing synergy! The landing page is well designed; it is clear, clean, uncluttered, easy to read, and has prominent subscription and retweet buttons. I would go so far as to say that, in the B2B construction market, this is about the best you could do a campaign of this nature. (Also, check out their YouTube channel; this company really understands social media!)

Here's the problem: unless your company is the size of Wacker Neuson, you probably cannot afford to do this.

Start with the basics: can your company currently afford to buy several iPads just to give away? This tactic is the equivalent of making friends in school by throwing great parties; everyone will come for a free trip to Disneyland, but few will come for microwaved pizza and DVDs. Likewise, as the cost of the giveaway decreases, you see sharply diminishing returns on the campaign. iPads are cool enough and expensive enough that tons of people will jump through hoops to get one; substantially fewer people would take the effort for a $25 gift certificate. This makes finding an effective value-priced incentive extremely difficult.

More importantly, the friends this will make you are not friends you will keep. Like the school party, again, everyone will be your friend until the party is over. If that is the only reason they like you, though, you only keep them as long as you keep throwing parties. I guarantee Wacker Neuson will have a huge boost in Facebook followers during and immediately after the show, and I guarantee that, barring some amazing follow-up campaign, most of them will un-follow or go dormant within a month.

For a company like Wacker Neuson that is probably ok; their social media strategy seems based on TV marketing, meaning they want eyeballs and brand recognition, not an enduring, engaged community. And that brand recognition is probably all they need.

For most manufacturers, though, that is not enough. The construction industry is big enough and varied enough that almost every product is a niche product (granted, some have very large niches). Short-term engagement will not produce the long-term brand recognition that you need, because there are not enough people using your product often enough. For you, social media campaigns need to be about engagement and long-term relationship building, so when the day comes that they need your product, they remember your name.

As in real life, buying online friends is a great strategy if you can afford it. Most of us, though, make friends by being interesting, polite, helpful, and social. And that strategy will help just as much online.

16 Fun Things To Do At Trade Shows

To get you in the mood for World of Concrete, here's a fun list from Skyline:

  1. Look up on the show city’s Visitors and Convention Bureau website all the fun activities you can do outside of show hours (try indoor skydiving in Las Vegas, it’s a blast).
  2. Go to dinner with the funniest sales person who is staffing the booth. Repeat nightly.
  3. Count how many trade show booths you can walk by before a booth staffer tries to engage you.
  4. Visit your competitors at the show and ask them what they don’t do well. Watch ’em squirm.
  5. When you meet attendees in your booth, stop treating them like numbers on the sales chart, and treat them instead as if they are going to be your new best friend.
  6. Drinking game: Walk down the trade show aisle carrying a bottle of water (unless you are at a European show). Whenever a booth staffer says, “Hi! How are you?” you reply, “Fine,” take a swig, and keep walking.
  7. Pick up giveaways from your fellow exhibitors, and then give them back … to different exhibitors.
  8. Go to lunch with the second-funniest sales person who is staffing the booth. Repeat daily.
  9. Look up old friends you haven’t seen in ages that live in the show city, via Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media, and relive the glory days.
  10. Create a fun activity in your booth that helps get your message across to visitors.
  11. Walk into an island trade show exhibit and play with their products. Count how many seconds (minutes?) it takes for a booth staffer to engage you.
  12. Smile at your booth visitors, even if they aren’t. Pretty soon you’ll both be smiling.
  13. Have a contest with fellow staffers to see who can work specific obscure words into conversation when talking with booth visitors, such as “corollary,” “obtuse,” and “Sandra Day O’Connor.”
  14. Walk the show with a colleague. Have a bet on who can count the most: booth staffers sitting down or booth staffers on the phone. A third friend can count booth staffers eating or drinking. (This is like counting states on license plates when on a long drive.) Loser buys lunch.
  15. Have another bet: Before you hit the show floor, bet which trendy new color will be on the trade show displays. Then count the exhibits with that color. Loser buys drinks … that are the color they picked.
  16. Thank everyone who has helped you with the show – your booth staffers, your exhibit house, your manager, the show owner, the show labor, and especially your booth visitors. You’d be surprised how much fun that can be.

Know Your Hashtags: #worldconcrete

#worldconcrete is the official hash tag for World of Concrete 2011, according to the show's Twitter stream. However, I have also seen tweets under #WOC2011 and #worldofconcrete. If you are posting tweets, use #worldconcrete; if you are monitoring, check for all three.

Hash tags are an important tool for understanding and using Twitter successfully. A hash tag is a single word (or multiple words compressed scriptio continua) preceded by the # character. For example, #construction or #sustainabledesign. They assist in searching by categorizing related tweets; clicking on the above examples will pull up searches of recent posts on those topics.

Hash tags have two other significant benefits; anyone can make a new one at any time, and they properly categorize your tweet even if you did not use the proper keyword. This means that I can talk about a new product's environmental benefits without using the term "sustainable design", and a search for the term will still find my tweet. This is important in the Twitter space, where you do not have much room for SEO.

For example: "New concrete admixture reduces CO2 emissions 32% #sustainabledesign" clearly makes the point, is clear and coherent, and leaves 73 characters for my company name and link.

You do not need to use hash tags on every tweet you make. Use them to link your tweet to a specific larger topic (#construction probably will not help you, but #worldconcrete or #AIA will if you are exhibiting at those shows). For any Twitter marketing campaign where you are asking people to tweet and retweet your message, they are essential.

Tis the season...for new press kits!

The air is getting colder, the days are getting shorter, and we're coming up on that magical time of year that means something special to everyone...It's time to update your press kits for 2011!

World of Concrete is coming early this year (Jan. 17-21), and the holidays are going to cut into that time. If you have not already started revisions, now's the time to do so. 

Even if your company does not attend WoC, this is a good time of year to look at existing materials, add new product announcements, remove outdated articles, and find new photos. A good press kit is a must if you are attending trade shows, and are also a valuable sales tool. In addition to the 5 Essential Press Kit Pieces I recommend, here are a few useful stories to consider for your 2011 press kit:
  • Have you had any major staffing changes?
  • What's new in your product line? This can mean new products or updates to existing ones.
  • How's your company weathering the recession?
  • Have you started a new blog? Facebook page? Relaunched your website?
  • What challenges or changes do you see for the industry in 2011? How can your company help architects prepare for them?
The point of a press kit is to get publishers to write about you and your product. They are unlikely to do so if you give them the same "news" you gave them last year. Some pieces will have enduring value, especially if they provide important background information, but as a general rule of thumb you should have at least two new pieces.

Consider too how you will use your press kit digitally. I still recommend having paper copies for distribution at the show, but posting the information online is a good way to get additional search traffic and makes future distribution easier.

Prospects for AIA Show in 2011

The AIA Show website shows that there are still many unsold booths for their May 2011 gathering in New Orleans.  This means you can still get good booth locations if you decide to exhibit there. But by most accounts, the AIA's show in Miami earlier this year was sparsely attended by architects.

What are the prospects for the upcoming event?
Attendance may be a bit better this year:
  • The economy has begun to turn around a bit, (I hope.)
  • New Orleans is more centrally situated for most of the country.
  • Who wanted to go to Miami in the summer, anyways?
  • I think many architects are curious to see how New Orleans is being rebuilt (at least I am).
Attendance may be up the show has new management -- Hanley Wood. HW's magazine, Architect, will become the official publication of AIA as of January. I suspect Hanley Wood will be pouring lots of resources into building the show this year.

Unfortunately, I don't see that yet. Their website, just six months before the event, is still little more than a place holder saying, "Continue to check back for more details."

Where to spend your marketing budget?
HW has other challenges. When AIA produce the event, it could tap into its members' sense of community. Now, the AIA Convention is at risk of being seen as just another of HW's events for architects. This is a weak position. For example, I don't go to HW's CONSTRUCT trade show because it is a major trade show (it isn't), but because I identify with the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) community that holds its annual meeting at CONSTRUCT. If CSI relocated its annual meeting to another event, I would follow my tribe.*

HW's architectural show will now have to compete against its other events for architects -- CONSTRUCT and their new virtual trade show, And will architects still traipse half-way across the continent if they can get all their continuing education credits from Hanley Wood University?

Booth prices begin at $4200 for a 10 x 10 ft booth. (Of course, renting space is less than half the cost of exhibiting.) It is unlikely HW will discount prices. Perhaps you will be able to negotiate a frequency discount if you exhibit and advertise in their magazines?

Should you exhibit at AIA or any tradeshow this year? 
The answer is no longer an automatic "yes". You have to look closely at the fundamentals: What do you want to accomplish? Does the show provide the right audience? How can the show leverage the rest of your marketing budget?

Many of my clients have done the math and have budgetted for trade shows in the coming year. For some, it may mean a smaller booth. One the other hand, one of my my clients has a new product launch that will benefit from a live demonstration. They are increasing their trade show participation because it is more economical than sending crews across the country for demos.

Reduced attendance at a show does necessarily mean reduce effectiveness. The World of Concrete (also a HW event) had significantly lower attendance in 2010; but those who came were there to buy and not just for a junket in Vegas.

I still believe trade shows have an important function, even in the digital age. It will be interesting to see what the next few years bring. 

* Prediction: HW will merge the AIA and CONSTRUCT shows into one super-sized event. Let's hope so, it would make for a more rational industry.

Greensite Awards 2010

Concrete Construction gets it right. They recognize there's more to "green" than LEED, and that celebrating those extra factors is how the industry will move to the next level in sustainable design.

That's why I like the Greensite Awards.

Sustainable building practices are gaining acceptance in the competitive world of concrete construction. The editors of Concrete Construction and The Concrete Producer have created a new award program to recognize the concrete community's innovative contributions to green building. We will honor the country's best projects in ten different categories, and award one project as the overall GreenSite Project of the Year

Two years ago one of our clients won for their work on Ft. Irwin; the project was never LEED scored, and I'm sure it would not have done well, but the design-builder was able to drastically reduce environmental impact by using innovative concrete wall systems to cut the construction time in half. That's the kind of innovation we need, and that's what Concrete Construction is recognizing.

The call went out a month ago, and the deadline is August 27th. If you worked on a project that used concrete in a substantial way and had innovative approaches to sustainable design, consider applying.

Get More Value Out of a Trade Show

Nowadays, we have so many available means of marketing.  If you're not taking advantage of them, you may be left in the shadows. Trade shows are expensive, so you don't want all of your hard efforts to be wasted by not marketing properly before, during, and most importantly -- after the show.

Filming your company's events at trade shows is a great way to extend your presence in the trade show even after you've returned home.  

The video above was featured in an email that was sent out to everyone registered for World of Concrete. Once you click on the video, it links you to a page with a dozen other videos.  Some of these videos contain demos or events, whereas others contain sponsor videos.  Having a sponsor video is an excellent way to get your company publicity and it doesn't even have to be high quality footage.

By uploading videos from trade shows to your company website, other video hosting websites or by sending videos via email, you get the benefit of search engine optimization (key word searches that link others to your video) as well as familiarizing your customers with your brand. Videos on the World of Concrete and NeoCon websites are just two examples of the many marketing campaigns that are using video footage to publicize their brands.

R+D to Watch: Bacteria to Repair Concrete

Today's laboratory research can become tomorrow's building product. This is part of a continuing series of posts about technologies with exciting potential.

Repairing and extending the durability of concrete structures is a multi-billion dollar industry, Researchers at Ghent University have proposed the use of microbes to repair cracks in concrete:
As synthetic polymers, currently used for concrete repair, may be harmful to the environment, the use of a biological repair technique is investigated in this study. Ureolytic bacteria such as Bacillus sphaericus are able to precipitate CaCO3 in their micro-environment by conversion of urea into ammonium and carbonate. The bacterial degradation of urea locally increases the pH and promotes the microbial deposition of carbonate as calcium carbonate in a calcium rich environment. These precipitated crystals can thus fill the cracks. The crack healing potential of bacteria and traditional repair techniques are compared in this research by means of water permeability tests, ultrasound transmission measurements and visual examination. Thermogravimetric analysis showed that bacteria were able to precipitate CaCO3 crystals inside the cracks. It was seen that pure bacteria cultures were not able to bridge the cracks. However, when bacteria were protected in silica gel, cracks were filled completely.
FORECAST: Watch for biological processes such as this coming to a bridge near you before the end of the decade.

Easier for Tradeshow Attendees to Follow-Up

When a tradeshow attendee "swipes" his or her identity card at a tradeshow, the information goes into a database that exhibitors can use to do follow-up. Now, the same database is being used to send attendees a list of the booths they visit.

Hanley Wood introduced this innovation after this year's World of Concrete show. Calling it, "a valuable and important experience, they sent attendees an email saying:

To help you gain the maximum value from the event, we invite you to make use of a new attendee service – ExpoCard Visit Tracker – which contains the contact information for the exhibitors you visited. This information was compiled from your use of the ExpoCard during the show.

This service will allow you to be proactive in following up with those exhibitors you spoke to during the event. This service is brought to you free of charge.

All you need to do is click here to access this private information. Use this link whenever you want to view your information.
This is a great service to attendees. After shows, I frequently have a hard time recalling who I met with; this provides a refresher, plus website addresses.

It is even better service for exhibitors -- providing you with one more exposure to prospects and inquiries that might otherwise have gotten lost.

It is also part of a trend to blend social media with trade shows, a phenomena that will be covered elsewhere in this blog.

Chusid Associates will be presenting workshops on tradeshow selling at Construct 2010. Watch for further details or contact me for additional information.

World of Concrete 2011 is Earlier Than 2010

Chusid Associates helped multiple clients prepare for WOC 2010 (six of our clients were at the show) so we know just how pressured it can become.  Mark your calendar now, while you’re calm and rational, to set up a WOC prep gameplan that will get you to the show without ulcers or excessive overtime, or call us if you’d like help planning your show, executing your booth, scheduling and press conferences and speaking opportunities, and creating all the needed presentation and support materials.  

Speaking of speaking opportunities, the deadline for topic and speaker proposals is April 9, 2010.

On-Body Video and Building Products

Live video feeds from construction job sites are fairly common now. Mounted on poles, they provide reasonable overviews of jobsites. The next step in "videolizing" construction may be the use of small cameras mounted on the bodies of the people working on a site.

An exhibitor at World of Concrete earlier this month showed such a system; a small video camera mounted on a hardhat transmitted signals to a netbook sized computer carried in a pouch on the person's back or hung from a tool belt. The result is a record of what the person saw (or should have seen) on the project. A different version of the same idea was featured recently in USA Today and is being tested by for use by law enforcement officers as a way to gather evidence and to document the performance of officers.

The following are speculations on how such systems may be used by building product manufacturers:

There is a natural use for video in project inspections. Many roofing warranties, for example, require the manufacturer to make a project inspection as a condition of the warranty. A high definition video may be able to capture more information about a project than could a still camera, including panoramic sweeps of the roof or a walk along the length of every joint.

This information could be useful to defend against a warranty claim, for example, by proving that the original installation had been modified. However, such extensive documentation could also backfire if a review of the video indicated a defect that the inspector should have noted but did not.

More, I wonder if a body camera provides a better record than would a tripod mounted (or even hand held) camera. Recording while walking could present a bouncing image that is harder to review than footage taken with a stationary camera.

Perhaps a better use is for training and quality control. Are your installers using the right techniques? Are they skipping steps? Checking via video could cost less than sending your tech manager onto each project. It could be especially useful for watching items of work that are not visible after subsequent construction is in place.

Will trades people be willing to wear the camera? Most trades people are professionals and take pride in their work. They might feel that the cameras show a lack of confidence at best and an invasion of privacy at worst.

Could on site video capability give your firm a promotable benefit? Would the architect, engineer, or owner like the ability to eavesdrop on the work while it is in progress? My guess is that the footage would be endlessly boring. It could also be a liability issue for design professionals if they miss catching an error that should have been obvious from the video.

Finally, there are many locations where it is difficult for inspections or supervision to take place, such as in a crawlspace or on top of a mast. Here, video could clearly be helpful, enabling the person on the spot to confer with an expert or colleague in the job trailer or other remote location.

While I am uncertain about the current generation of body mounted cameras, It seems pretty obvious that video in one form or another will become an essential part of the job site tool kit. As it is now, many of the people working on a construction site are already carrying telephones with photographic capability. Stay tuned for more developments.

World of Concrete's Visit Tracker

World of Concrete just introduced a new feature for attendees, a "Visit Tracker". I just got the email with my results today:
Dear Aaron,

We hope you found your time at World of Concrete 2010 a valuable and important experience.

To help you gain the maximum value from the event, we invite you to make use of a new attendee service – ExpoCard Visit Tracker –
which contains the contact information for the exhibitors you visited. This information was compiled from your use of the
ExpoCard during the show.

This service will allow you to be proactive in following up with those exhibitors you spoke to during the event. This service is brought to you free of charge.
Included was a link to my personalized results.

My first response was, it sure felt like I visited more booths than that! It really brought home to me what a small percentage of booths I visit actually scan my card. Beyond that, this is an excellent new tool for attendees and exhibitors alike; attendees have extra incentive to scan their cards now, potentially helping exhibitor collect more prospects.

Tech-industry prognosticators are predicting that one of the big trends in 2010 will be a shift from the internet as a "Web of Documents" to a "Web of Data"; this is a good example of that shift. Hanley Wood already had the data; by making data into a usable tool, rather than keeping it in a walled garden where only a few people could view it, they created something new and useful.