Over the past month or so, the Stone World staff has attended a broad range of trade shows around the world: the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention & Expo in Denver, CO; Coverings in New Orleans, LA; Stone+Tec in Nuremberg, Germany; and Carraramarmotec in Carrara, Italy. But despite the fact that all of these shows are specific to the international stone industry (even the AIA Expo has a Stone & Tile Pavilion), they all took place over the same 14-day period. Even with five different staff members traveling to these various shows, we're all exhausted by now.

For those readers who somehow attended all four shows, congratulations and enjoy the frequent flyer miles. For the rest of us, however, this is just too much. Over the past few years, I have attended all of these shows many times, but when they are bunched together - as they were this year - it becomes prohibitive. With day-to-day business demands and family obligations, a simple four- or five-day trip to a trade show can be difficult, let alone a two-week jaunt to four cities in three different countries. Add to this the required trips for sales calls, block evaluation and other types of sourcing that are common to the stone industry, and the travel ledger becomes even more daunting.

Now, a clear - but inefficient - answer to this is to say, "Don't attend all of the shows." And for many members of the stone industry, this is exactly what they did. Many of the people I spoke with at the various trade shows were either shuttling between the different fairs (missing a day or more at each of them) or omitting certain shows altogether. And while this isn't the worst thing that could happen, I have to think that if the shows were spaced out a little better, all of the events would have seen better attendance. From a personal perspective, I only attended two of the four shows (Coverings and the final three days of Stone+Tec), and I certainly would have attended at least one other had they not been stacked so closely. And the calendar for 2002 is beginning to look just as crowded, with Coverings, AIA and Piedra (a stone trade show based in Madrid) all taking place within a few days of one another.

Even though the organizers of these different shows are on different continents, I truly believe that they can better communicate with one another and try to come up with a schedule that is beneficial to all parties concerned.

It is important to stress that I am not saying there are too many trade shows; just that they have been bunched together too closely. Every time I attend a trade show - regardless of its size or how many I've attended over the past year - I gain something from it. And I'm certain that this is the case for many members of the international stone industry.

This being said, it's up to the show organizers to look outside of their own event and to look at the international stone industry - as well as allied industries - to produce a balanced schedule. As an exhibitor or an attendee of these shows, you - the members of the stone industry - have the ear of these international fair organizers. Let them know your thoughts.