Joris’s Definitive Guide to Surviving Formnext 2023

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I’ve been attending Formnext, and its predecessor Euromold, for several years. During this time, I’ve gathered valuable insights that could benefit future attendees. While Formnext is an engaging but demanding experience, implementing these tips can make your visit more efficient. Given the event’s rapid growth, relying on serendipity to see everyone and everything is no longer feasible.

Scheduling

Several weeks before Formnext, familiarize yourself with the venue map. The event spans four halls across two buildings, each focused on specific technologies or types of companies. Use the company directory to identify firms of interest by applying a range of search terms. Note whether these firms or their resellers will be in attendance.

Familiarize yourself with Formnext’s layout to pinpoint the locations of businesses you’re keen on visiting. Identify clusters of companies that warrant extended time or multiple visits.

Start scheduling meetings at least two weeks in advance to secure your preferred time slots, as they tend to fill up quickly. Aim to arrange meetings in the same hall to minimize travel time within the venue. Prioritize your most important meetings, then schedule others nearby. For example, plan all Tuesday morning meetings in Hall 11.0 and all afternoon meetings in Hall 11.1.

Leave a one-hour buffer between meetings to account for any delays, preventing a domino effect on your schedule. Use this interlude to explore the hall, allocating 20 minutes for discovering new products or technologies and another 20 minutes for visiting familiar entities. The remaining 20 minutes will naturally fill up with unplanned activities.

In your calendar, include the contact name and stand number for each meeting. If someone else schedules a meeting for you, add a separate calendar entry with the stand number to expedite your navigation, especially if internet connectivity is spotty.

End meetings ahead of schedule when possible. This courtesy allows attendees time to relax, take restroom breaks, and network, creating a positive impression. Many high-level executives are confined to small meeting rooms for the majority of the event.

Reserve the event’s last day for unscheduled activities; it’ll fill up regardless. The final hours of the show are usually quieter, making it an ideal time for more relaxed conversations. However, be mindful of the varying packing commitments among companies. For example, avoid lingering too late around companies like WASP, which requires significant teardown efforts. In contrast, larger firms often employ external teams for dismantling, making them more amenable to late interactions. The window between 13:00 and 16:00 on the final Friday provides an excellent opportunity for meaningful conversations.

Logistics

Upon arriving for a meeting at a large stand, locate the receptionists immediately; at smaller stands, speak to someone as soon as you can. Attendees at Formnext often forget about scheduled meetings, necessitating a quick search. If you arrive early, it’s advisable to request water, as you’re likely not hydrating sufficiently throughout the day. However, if you’re punctual and already with your host, avoid asking for beverages to save time.

Navigating the venue can be time-consuming, and attendees often make the mistake of using incorrect entrances, leading to unnecessary delays. The S-bahn lines S3, S4, and S5 stop at the Frankfurt Am Main Messe station, conveniently located in the center of the conference venue near Halls 8 and 12. This station is also near the widely indicated Torhaus. The U4 Bahnoff Festhalle Messe stop is situated on the eastern side near Hall 1, marked as “City” on Messe signs. Hotels along Europallee are most easily accessed via the Emser Brücke, Torhaus entrance, while the Marriott or Melia Messe are closer to the Turn or Festhalle entrances.

The layout of Halls 11 and 12 is not straightforward, with a walk between them taking up to 15 minutes or more, especially if you bump into acquaintances. Minimize trips between these two halls to conserve time. Plan your movements carefully rather than making impulsive decisions.

Upon entering any hall, take note of the aisle markers. This will help you orient yourself quickly, particularly since the lettering system can be confusing. For instance, in Hall 11, exit A is to the right while the last aisle, F, is to the left; in Hall 12, A is to the left and E is to the right.

In terms of stand numbering, Hall 12 features higher numbers close to the Portalhaus, whereas in Hall 11, the numbers increase as you move away from the Portalhaus. While most small stands are clearly tagged with red numbers, some larger ones are not. Restrooms are consistently located to the sides of the entrances on the ground floor.

Meetings

I generally steer clear of scheduling meetings with individuals who are geographically close to me, focusing instead on those who are harder to reach. This makes the most of the unique gathering that Formnext provides. I also usually skip meetings with people I already know, as video conferencing platforms like Zoom offer a more efficient way for us to connect.

My priority at Formnext is to meet new people, aiming to gain a deeper understanding of who they are and what they do. When possible, I try to group meetings by both location and subject matter. For example, I might arrange multiple ceramics-related meetings on the same day to delve more thoroughly into that field.

While it’s crucial to be direct and get to the point in meetings, it’s equally important to establish at least a basic personal connection. This helps provide context for future interactions and gives each party a sense of who the other is.

Time

I usually arrive a day early and depart on Saturday, which is different from the majority who typically attend for just two days. In my experience, two days aren’t sufficient to explore the vast scale of Formnext, especially when juggling meetings. The event has expanded over the years, making it increasingly challenging to see all the exhibitors and technologies that pique my interest.

One strategy I employ is to inquire about standout exhibits or technologies that others have come across. This often helps me discover intriguing offerings I might have overlooked. People have diverse expertise, and their unique perspectives can be invaluable in identifying things I might have missed.

Networking is another priority for me. I actively try to link people with mutual interests or needs, enhancing the value of the event for them and those they get introduced to. This often opens up new opportunities and collaborations for everyone involved.

Attending for the full four days allows me the flexibility to space out meetings and connect with individuals I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to meet. Adding an extra day or two to my Formnext attendance is a more efficient use of time than going to a different event or arranging separate meetings elsewhere. In summary, Formnext offers me the most efficient way to see more, learn more, and network more extensively.

Parties

While parties can be a highlight for many attendees, I find that events extending past 1 a.m. are enjoyable but not particularly beneficial for networking or business. Considering how Formnext offers one of the most concentrated opportunities for effective meetings, it seems counterproductive to be tired or hungover.

That said, stand parties can be highly effective for networking. Enjoying a beer at a stand party allows you to not only celebrate the hosting company but also to interact with a variety of staff members and partners you might not otherwise meet. It’s a terrific setting for both meeting new people and strengthening existing relationships.

Impromptu lunches can also offer unique networking opportunities. Many attendees eat alone, so grabbing lunch with someone you’re conversing with can be a pleasant and productive break.

Later parties, in contrast, often become too noisy to allow for meaningful conversations. Similarly, dinners can be hit or miss, largely depending on the people you’re seated beside. In these settings, the quality of networking can be inconsistent. So while the social aspects of Formnext are valuable, it’s essential to approach them strategically.

Note Taking

Carrying business cards is a tried-and-true networking tool, so make sure to bring plenty. It’s also a good idea to photograph all the business cards you receive, as it’s easy to misplace them amid the chaos of the event. At the end of each day, take a moment to connect with valuable contacts on LinkedIn to maintain those newly formed relationships.

When capturing visuals, start by photographing the company’s logo and brand name before taking shots of machines and parts. This helps you later associate specific products with the correct companies.

If you make any promises or commitments during your interactions, jot them down immediately. Whether you make a note on the business card itself or enter the details into an app like Trello, keeping track of your commitments is essential for successful follow-up.

Finally, when in doubt, take more photos than you think you’ll need. In my experience, the one photo you regret not taking is often the one that could have been most useful later on. So be liberal in capturing images; you’ll thank yourself when you’re sifting through your material post-event.

Self Care

Prioritize sleep, as speaking and networking for extended periods can leave your mind buzzing. Consider winding down with meditation or some light exercise, like jumping jacks, to help ease into a restful state.

Opt for a hearty but not overly heavy breakfast, such as muesli, to fuel your day. This helps you stay satisfied until well after lunch, allowing you to focus on networking rather than your next meal.

Foot care is crucial when you’re on your feet all day. Consider bringing Epsom salt or a similar remedy. Though finding the right vessel to soak your feet can be challenging, it’s worth the effort for the relief it brings.

Invest in high-quality socks from reputable brands like Falke, Darn Tough, or Lurbel. These offer cushioning and support, making a world of difference during long hours on your feet. And speaking of feet, bring multiple pairs of comfortable, broken-in shoes that offer varying types of support to keep foot fatigue at bay.

Wear layered clothing, like a shirt and sweater, to adapt to temperature changes throughout the day. This enables you to remain comfortable regardless of the event’s climate.

Given that trade shows are high-contact environments, they can be breeding grounds for illness. Pack a first-aid kit containing paracetamol, ORS, ibuprofen, throat lozenges, and nasal spray to mitigate symptoms and help you stay healthy.

Stay hydrated. Whether it’s the atmosphere of the halls or the constant talking, dehydration is a common issue at these events. Stick to water for the most part, and limit coffee intake to when you really need a pick-me-up.

And, of course, make sure to attend AM Investment Strategies on November 2, hosted by Additive Manufacturing Research and Cantor Fitzgerald. The free online roundtable occurs a week ahead of Formnext will help prep you for the event as leaders in the industry speak their minds about the state of AM.

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