Editor’s note: This appeared in our May 2009 issue.

Deb Hess is executive director of the Minnesota Inventors Congress, which hosts the Invention and Idea Show June 12-13.

Deb Hess

Deb Hess

The event is celebrating its 52nd year. Once again, it takes place in Redwood Falls, about two hours west of Minneapolis. But this year, MIC won’t be competing with INPEX – confronted with withering corporate demand, organizers cancelled that competing tradeshow in Pittsburgh this year and will reboot in 2010. Hess huddled with Inventors Digest to discuss this year’s MIC. We think you’ll find her engaging. And if you haven’t had the chance, visit the MIC’s Web site.

ID: How do you think the downturn in the economy will affect this year’s event?

DH: We tend to see an increase in numbers when the economy is challenged or struggling. Those who are more innovative tend to take the time and energy to promote their ideas. But it is hard to predict.

ID: How do you think the absence of INPEX will affect MIC? Or better yet, how do you hope to capitalize on its absence?

DH: Several times over the years they have held it the same weekend. Many inventors were frustrated because they had to choose where they wanted to be. I’m hoping it will have a positive impact because they won’t have to make a choice. I personally believe that for the dollar value, inventors are getting a very very good deal coming to the Midwest.

ID: Got anything new or different on tap?

DH: One of the things we’re developing is a section in our Inventing Success Workshops geared for manufacturers so they can learn more about working with inventors. We’re also looking at targeting product scouts from various industries. There will be a more concentrated effort to let the public know these people attend the expo. Manufacturers and product scouts have been able to come pretty much incognito and stop and talk to the exhibitors. We have many success stories from past events of inventors partnering with companies. Our goal is to give them a more public presence.

ID: Can exhibitors sell inventions from their booths?

DH: Yes. In recent history, an inventor had to sell their market-ready products through our gift shop. In 2007, we sold $10,000 in merchandise in our gift shop. Last year, we gave inventors the option to sell from their booths. Anecdotally, we heard from many inventors they probably would have sold more if they sold through our gift shop. There seems to be something about having items in the gift shop where consumers can “shop” and have one credit card charge for different products.

This year we will offer both options and see what happens. We’re always hoping to improve the outcome for our exhibitors.

ID: Can you tell us what inventors should do to best prepare for the event?

DH: So many inventors attend and they are each at a different stage in the product-development process. Coming up with one answer is a challenge. I would suggest that your booth design should reflect your invention and the targeted industry to attract the right kind of people. If you have a hunting product, design your booth to fit that industry. Ask yourself who you are trying to reach. That determines the conversation you’ll want to have. You are there to test market and showcase your product. Make sure you know your purpose for exhibiting and create that experience.