Get Up, Get Out
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an in-person, hands-on experience is worth a few thousand, conservatively. This is what I realized while scrutinizing over our "20 New Technology Solutions" roundup (page 20). And this is not a not-so-cleverly disguised promotion for the [fabulous] roundup—in fact, I'm going to point out a teeny bit of a fallacy in it.
Many of the products included in the new-technology roundup we discovered while meandering the aisles of industry trade shows. We got the product lowdown from the top dogs at the companies, who man their booths. We saw the products in action, saw how they improved specific workflow challenges, or whatever the task, got to ask follow-up questions. And to be quite honest, seeing is believing.
The Full Picture
What's this got to do with you? If you're scouting out new technology—whether just to get up to speed or actively shop—and you're not out at a single trade show, I just don't see how you can always get the full picture.
Here's an example I experienced while working on our technology roundup. I had met the folks at HumanEyes Technologies at a recent trade show, and they not only showed me how their 3-D software worked, but sat me down, snapped a couple photos of me, and demonstrated the process using me as the guinea pig. While the 3-D image they created of me sitting among some lovely greenery was a lower-quality sample (in the interest of time) of their finest offerings, I was nonetheless impressed.
I also got to see some of their high-quality work, such as an ad for Absolut Vodka, that really looked as if you could reach into the page and pick up the bottle. I could just see a designer eyeing up the new software for their next book cover.
A Designer, I Am Not
But, I'm an editor, not a designer. So, when one of our editorial advisory board members said that after reading the brief in the roundup, he visited the Web site for HumanEyes and was concerned that the technology looked a bit low-grade for what it was purporting to offer, I thought that he may be right. I would tend to defer the verdict to any of my advisory board members, as they are the true experts. But I just had to wonder: If they saw what I saw at the trade show, would they still have the same concerns?
But, regardless, the situation brought to mind the importance of getting out there—getting up out of your chair, out of your office and into the great labyrinth of the industry and its many offerings. Production schedules will always be hectic; behemoth piles of mail will always reside in your in-bin.
And, if you happen to venture out to the next trade show and find that one special solution that can save you enormous amounts of time and/or money, your time spent out of the office at the show has more than paid for itself—as well as for the cost of the show.
Print and electronic information can be extremely valuable in helping you find new technologies—don't get me wrong. If I didn't think so, I wouldn't be here, nor would I have burned the midnight oil working on the technology roundup. Magazines can be great for informing you about new technologies that are out there. And, there are a good number of products you don't need to see in person to fully grasp their capabilities and relevance to your needs.
But there are certain solutions (like the 3-D imaging technology by HumanEyes) that you have to see for yourself. If you see it and decide it's still not for you, at least you made an informed decision.
Get out there, really. See the products. Try them. Ask questions. Find things you would never find otherwise. And if you don't find anything that whets your whistle, tell vendors what you don't like; your feedback just might help develop a new version that fits your needs.
As a spokesperson for Quark recently said, regarding the company's apparent recent reformation, "We began listening to what customers wanted." (Coinciden-tally, this comment was also made during a presentation at a recent trade show.)
I believe the alternative is missed opportunities. What if you never see a certain technology's full capabilities because you just can't get out of the office to attend that upcoming show. You're just too busy. Or it's just not in the budget. … Next month, you see your competition's new 3-D book cover that garners so much attention from consumers that it becomes a best seller. Would a day or two out of the office and a few hundred dollars admission fee be worth possibly beating your competition to the punch? That's your decision.
This is just my 2 cents, but I sure do hope to see more of you at trade shows this year!