I was lucky enough to attend my first iba trade fair in Munich, Germany, last month. Until then, the International Baking Industry Exhibition (IBIE) was my idea of a huge show. After being completely flabbergasted by iba’s magnitude, I understood why the show is six days long. Each of the 12 halls took half a day to cover. 

A global show like this is the perfect venue to showcase new products and launch new brands. And while I was undoubtedly impressed with the new innovations that exhibitors were displaying, the real showing was in just how they were displayed. During one booth visit, I leaned to Editorial Director Dan Malovany and said, “Remember when just having an iPad in the booth was a big deal?” And to think — that was only a few years ago.

Today, it’s not enough to simply display your products. Everyone does that, right? The trick is to get attendees talking about your booth so they want to come learn more. For example, on day three of the show, I made a trek across three halls, just to get to the WP booth. Why? Because so many people — attendees and exhibitors — told me I absolutely had to see the company’s 3D presentation. Since when did 3D glasses come with their own controls to choose what we want to see on the screen? And speaking of screens, Zeppelin found a way to wow visitors with its equipment that was just sitting there. With the simple wave of a tablet, people could view what would be happening inside that equipment when it’s up and running.

Some exhibitors didn’t even need their equipment to generate interest in their company. The Kaak Group created a virtual tour of its pan tracking system by constructing a two-story elevator shaft. Burford Corp. presented information on a giant touch-screen with voice command. And over at Tromp Group Americas, the booth went sans-steel, drawing in visitors to view scale models of its systems and discuss them over a cup of coffee served up by a world-renowned barista.  

Exhibitors were visiting one another’s booths to get a peek at not only the innovations but also the innovative ways in which they were displaying them. Ideas were flowing in a way I’ve never seen. Intentionally or not, exhibitors were sharing ideas on new ways to get customers’ attention. The iba show has traditionally been a gauge for what’s to come at IBIE (set for October 8-11, 2016). If that’s the case, I can’t wait to see what’s in store when we get to Vegas. Holograms?

That’s it. Next October, I expect to sing a karaoke duet with a holographic Elvis … all I need is the booth number.