FIA will hold Forge Fair 2021 on Oct. 26-28 in Detroit, Mich., at TFC Center (formerly Cobo Center). This article, geared to the novice and lightly experienced trade-show attendee, will give tips on how to make the most of your time on the exhibit floor and in the technical sessions.

Your boss instructed you to attend Forge Fair 2021 in Detroit in a few weeks. His expectations are clear: attend the event, collect information on the latest technologies to enhance your company’s profitability and check out the competition. Also, have fun, but not too much.

Both writers are decades-long veterans of trade shows and expositions, and we have gathered some tips relative to your attendance that should make your Forge Fair experience a valuable one for your company and an educational one for you.


Maximize Your Participation

In general, the less time you plan to spend at Forge Fair, the more planning you should do to maximize your participation. If you are being sent just for the day, planning your time is more important than if you’re there for the entire event. Study the list of exhibitors before the event opens and think about those you may wish to visit. There will be about 130 to consider, so give this task some time. Similarly, review the topics listed in the technical program and plan your schedule around them. Having studied what Forge Fair 2021 has to offer, formulate your plan for the time you will be in Detroit.

First, establish your goals. Perhaps these are customer-driven. For example, identify potential modeling tools to improve forging design for affordability or identify new die coatings to improve die wear for longer-life tools. Write down these goals to serve as a script when interacting with vendors exhibiting in Detroit.

Second, identify targets of opportunity. Having reviewed the exhibitor list and speaker schedule, prioritize which specific exhibitors you need to meet or papers you need to hear. Focus on those booths first instead of wandering aimlessly on the show floor. Annotate your calendar to ensure you hear these presentations. Any technical presentation that may help you do your job better should be high on your list of papers to attend. Plan to collect business cards and literature while taking copious notes. It may help to make notes on the backs of business cards you collect to remind you of any follow-up activity you may have promised.

Third, make your travel plans. Book travel details early, since flights and hotels fill up. If you are flying into town, consider taking public transportation to the convention center or hotel. This avoids the hassle of renting, driving, parking, refueling and returning a car. Depending on how far you lodge from the convention center, you might even be able to fill your Fitbit with steps. Sometimes it’s better to stay several blocks away from the venue to see the city and get some exercise. Book early!

Fourth, company content that you might bring with you should include up-to-date business cards and current business literature. Be prepared to discuss your role in the company and your company’s capabilities. No need to go too deep, but you should share just enough to engage in a cogent conversation with others along the way. When attending social events and meals, DO NOT hang out with your co-workers! Divide and conquer. You can always talk shop at home. Meet someone new at Forge Fair; someone who will appreciate your company and your potential business.

Fifth, be prepared for the weather. Dress properly, professionally and comfortably. Perhaps your company has a dress code to abide by. If so, wear the gear. Most importantly, wear comfortable shoes.

Go, learn and enjoy!


COVID-Related Information

At the time of this writing in late August 2021, based on recommendations of the Michigan Department of Public Health and Human Services, guests of the TCF Center are required to “wear face masks at all times. Security will be enforcing masks for all. Please keep yourselves and everyone around you safe. Mask up!”


Tackle Your Top Priorities First

Essentially, you want to focus your time at the show on anything and everything that will help you do your job better or help you learn more of the broader industry of which you are a part.

Once you arrive at the TCF Center, trek over to the registration desk to pick up your badge and expo program. Properly badged, head into the show using the plan that you have already worked out. Some attendees choose to take a quick walk through the show first. This is OK, but don’t lose too much time doing it. Once you are oriented, the fun can start.

Stop at your top-priority booths first. Don’t be shy. Go right up to the representatives and introduce yourself, your company and your role within it. Explain your needs in general terms, and then let them talk. Allow them to demonstrate their products, provide data and show you benefits for your company and your customers. Give them your card or let them scan your badge.  Follow up later in the show or after the show. Be mindful, however, that your competitors might be listening. No need to be paranoid; just be careful.

Repeat the process until you cover your list of booths. Also, attend the technical sessions for more detail. Checking out the room, you can gauge interest levels, especially of your competitors. Hopefully, the presentations will be truly technical and not infomercials.

Work the whole show floor.

Additional Tips for Attending Forge Fair 2021

  • Pack and pop breath mints; no need to explain why.
  • Be courteous of other participants and exhibitors. Don’t butt into conversations. If you really need to meet with an exhibitor, politely give a representative your card and indicate that you will return later.
  • Trade-show bling is meant to remind you of a product or service. Don’t be greedy.  Perhaps pick up some trinkets for your assistants and associates back home. Perhaps your spouse or kids would like some items. Vendors often unload their bling at the end of the show. Plan accordingly. Be careful of metal objects that might be seized at airport security!
  • If you want to take a picture of a piece of hardware or a booth, ask the exhibitor. Despite the public event, they might object to photos.


Special Events

Kuehl to Keynote Forge Fair 2021

Dr. Christopher Kuehl of Armada Corporate Intelligence will deliver a keynote address, “Be Careful What You Wish For: The Challenges of Growth,” to Forge Fair attendees on Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 8:00-9:00 a.m. His presentation is entitled

Dr. Kuehl is the author of Quick Read Economic Update and a frequent speaker at industry events. He is the managing director of Armada Corporate Intelligence and one of the co-founders of the company. He has been Armada’s economic analyst and worked with a wide variety of private clients and professional associations over the last 18 years. He is also the chief economist for the National Association for Credit Management (NACM) and prepares NACM’s monthly Credit Managers Index.

Dr. Kuehl s makes approximately 100 presentations each year to business and industry associations in the United States and overseas and is available to speak at FIA member company events for a reduced rate. He has a doctorate in political economics, advanced degrees in Soviet studies and Asian studies and was a professor of international economics and finance for over 15 years prior to starting Armada.


Check on Your Progress

Pace yourself and keep up with the objectives you have set. Are you making the contacts as planned? Which ones remain? Are there new additions to the list? Do you need to follow up now in person while the show is still in progress, or can you wait until after the show?  Have you seen anything new to your company – something outside of the box?


Featured Panel: Women in Forging

October 28, 2021 | 8:00-9:00 a.m.

Moderated by Ashleigh Walters, president of Onex Inc., this panel session will cover topics such as transitioning into the next generation; men becoming mentors and allies to women in the industry; finding work/life balance; labor and workforce development; and more. Panelists will include female leaders from FIA member companies.


Act on What You Have Learned

Once the show is over, act on what you discovered. Rack and stack the business cards collected. Up-load contact information into your contact list or Customer/Supplier Management System. Follow up with high-priority contacts first, eventually working your way to the lower priorities. You will find that, truthfully, some contacts are not relevant at all and are filed accordingly. Share ideas with others on your team. If you want to buy something, build the business case, invite the vendors in for demonstrations and evaluate the technology based on your company’s needs.

Work with your boss that sent you to Detroit. Work with your CEO and CFO and, if appropriate, buy the technology, tools and/or equipment your company needs to be the best forger in North America.  

See you in Detroit!


Hotel Accommodations

FIA is proud to be partnering with the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center to offer Forge Fair 2021 attendees rooms at a special rate of $199/night.

Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center

400 Renaissance Drive

Detroit, Michigan 48243



You can make your reservation by clicking on this link:

Co-author Jon Tirpak, a professional metallurgical engineer, is a regular conference and expo attendee and has been a regular and frequent contributor to FORGE. He can be reached at 843-480-5784 or at Co-author Dean M. Peters, also a regular conference and expo attendee, is a metallurgist and has been editor of FORGE since its first issue in 2006. He can be reached at 216-570-4537 or