As an editor, I go to a lot of conventions—just this year alone, I’ll head to eight shows before the year is up between my role as editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling and our sister publication, Waste Today.

These shows give me an opportunity to get out from behind my desk to learn about what’s going on in the industry and to hear what hot-button issues people in the industry are talking about.

While this is invaluable, I’ve found that most shows follow the same basic format that has remained virtually unchanged for decades. This usually includes a smattering of educational sessions and networking events interspersed with opportunities to visit the exhibitor floor to check out what new products and services the attending vendors have to offer attendees.

Along with the stress balls, phone chargers, keychains and other tchotchkes that adorn tables throughout the exhibitor hall, you’re likely to find vendors’ booths piled high with stacks of press information and brochures meant for public consumption.

But with everyone equipped with a smartphone and a 24-hour-a-day internet connection, the reason for attending a convention has less to do with accessing basic company or product information as it does getting insight into something more valuable that can’t be garnered from behind a screen.

That’s why this year’s Demolition Austin show put on by the National Demolition Association (NDA), Washington, Feb. 22-24 was such a breath of fresh air. As part of its inaugural Live Demolition event, the NDA procured a space off-site for contractors to be able to see, learn about and operate some of the latest construction and demolition heavy equipment on the market.

From shears and grapples to crushers and excavators, the equipment presented an interactive, hands-on opportunity for attendees to engage with vendors and get something out of the experience beyond what reading product specs in the confines of a booth allows.

People who spend significant money and travel long distances to attend a show aren’t there to read information that can be readily found on a company’s website. Today’s professionals are looking for solutions that can help make their businesses run more effectively and profitably.

That begins with starting a very different conversation, one where the pain points of the attendee are front and center.

The convention isn’t going away as a means of introducing people to new products and ideas. It’s how these products and ideas are packaged that warrants a closer inspection.

A lot has changed in how business is conducted over the last few decades—isn’t it time that the convention experience changed along with it?

Check out “Demo comes alive” in this issue to learn more about the Live Demolition event and how in-person communication is becoming more vital for contractors when it comes to equipment purchasing.