I doubt anybody attends more trade shows than a plastics editor.

I doubt anybody attends more trade shows than a plastics editor. It can be hard to keep up one's enthusiasm for pounding the aisles of yet another show. But at least once every three years, my admiration for trade shows is revived by the "K" fair in Dusseldorf, Germany. Bigger than any other plastics show, it runs over seven days in October. Exhausting to cover, but also exhilarating—it's an unmatched feast of technological innovation.

Our editors' huge haul of news from K 2004 (look for it next month) tells me that shows are still an efficient way for suppliers to communicate their inventiveness, problem-solving abilities, and market savvy. To me, "K" answers complaints of U.S. materials suppliers that shows "don't work" for their companies anymore and aren't worth the expense. That argument pales before the voluminous displays of intriguing applications and live processing demonstrations presented by Bayer, BASF, and Ticona, to name a few. Their exhibits were meant to spark ideas—which is why people go to shows in the first place. From the congestion in those booths, I'd say their strategy works.

Machinery exhibitors, who also chafe at the cost of shows, may be learning to use them more efficiently. At "K" they seemed more selective in their displays, focusing on a few "must-see" innovations. Milacron, for example, did not repeat its controversial precedent of last year's NPE show, to which it brought no presses. Instead, it drew crowds to watch a novel dual-turning-stack injection system mold two parts and then assemble and label them in the mold. Could anything beat the impact of seeing it happen in front of you? Where else but at a show could they draw more pairs of eyes?