World Dairy Expo – The Annual Pilgrimage

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The InBarn team just returned from Madison Wisconsin, and the World Dairy Expo. For some of us it was our first WDE experience, and for others an early October trip to Madison is just part of the yearly calendar. This year marks trip number 9 for me to Madison for WDE, and I often joke that it feels like an annual pilgrimage to the Meca of the dairy industry. Every year, the trip to Madison is compromised of three main activities. Meeting up with old connections, establishing new connections, and eating more cheese than I want to admit. 

The first is finding time to meet up with past acquaintances and business partners. These are great conversations where we talk about past projects, and the potential for future projects. Given that the dairy industry is built upon personal and business relationships, these moments where we can catch up face to face are invaluable. Many of these relationships span years or even decades, yet sometimes a few minutes in the booth at WDE is just what is needed. While traveling across the county to Madison Wisconsin every year may seem overrated and outdated, there is nothing that can replace the value that comes from face-to-face meetings.

While meeting up with past acquaintances is something that I love to do, it is also important to meet new people and companies and expand our network. Walking the trade show and taking stock of all the new companies and technologies that are on display, is an essential part of attending the Expo. There is always a plethora of new concepts, ideas, and products to take in, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. Yet, seeing new products and ideas is a great way to get an overview of industry trends and directions. Showcasing new products and ideas to potential customers is a great way to build interest and drive momentum.

One thing that you cannot escape as you wander the halls and exhibits in Madison is just how small and connected the dairy industry is. Sometimes it seems like everyone knows everyone. It always amazes me how many people came through our booth looking for someone specific. It seems to be the people that draw attendees in, not the flashy product displays. “Is Eugene at the show?”, or “Is Brian around today”, were probably the top two questions I was asked while working our booth. I was ready and prepared to discuss all things ventilation and cow cooling, yet people wanted to talk to people they knew.  It seems the connectedness of the dairy industry is inescapable. That’s one of the things I love about our industry; it still functions based on relationships. Personal relationships and connections are what keep our industry thriving. It’s been said many times, but it rings true for the dairy industry as well, “People buy from people.”

Those behind the World Dairy Expo understand this idea well, as the motor for World Dairy Expo is “Where the global dairy industry meets.” They understand and appreciate that while we do need sales to recover the costs associated with attending the show, the main focus of the show is meeting like-minded dairy enthusiasts, industry professionals, and producers from all over the world. There is no other forum or venue that facilitates this like world dairy expo.

Spending time with coworkers in our booth is a quick way to build comradery. When you get people outside of the office environment, it’s easier to build relationships and a team environment. For InBarn, with a largely remote sales staff, getting everyone together in one space does not happen very often. Taking advantage of having everyone together is important. We use the time to have face to face meetings and discussion, plan for the future, and also look fondly upon the previous years. As with our other industry colleagues, face to face time is irreplaceable when it comes to building lasting relationships.

The plans are already in motion for next year’s pilgrimage to Madison for World Dairy Expo 2024, and I am sure it will be an exceptional time like it always has been. Until then, I will have to wait for my cheese curds and grilled cheese sandwich.