September 27, 2019
By Mark Schmit
I was five years old in December of 1974, and thanks to the magic of the holiday season I was also in joyful possession of an Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle (with action figure). At the time, the Stunt Cycle set was manufactured by the Ideal Toy Company at its locations in in Hollis, Queens, New York, or Newark, New Jersey. It was the good ole’ US of A anyway. I couldn’t wait to get back to school and show off my sweet new ride. Back then, schools had an organized something called, “show and tell.” I couldn’t wait to both show and tell, because Evel Knievel was, to my mind, an absolute marvel. I wanted to be him. I wanted that red, white and blue uniform; this cannot be overlooked in terms of appeal to my younger self. My parents, however, are probably relieved to this day that I did not, in fact, springboard from my beloved Ideal Toys stunt cycle Christmas gift to a professional stunt career. I do, however, still work with organized show and tell, but now it’s called Manufacturing Day (MFG Day) and designed for big people.
This year’s MFG Day is on October 4, 2019, with over 2,000 events already registered on the MFG Day website. While every MFG Day event will be unique in some fashion, there are a few things that every host can do to make the most of this celebration of manufacturing.
Here are some tips that the members of the MEP National NetworkTM, participants in MFG Day since 2012, have found useful year after year.
Use the Resources on MfgDay.com
If you haven’t already, make sure to visit the mfgday.com blog. It’s full of articles that will help you think about key aspects of your MFG Day event, such as:
Plus, the mfgday.com Resources section includes detailed instructional “toolkits” you can use to plan and promote your event, including:
- MFG Day Host Toolkit – How to plan and execute a successful MFG Day event, including presentation tips and an event preparation checklist that covers everything you need to think about from start to finish
- MFG Day Media Toolkit – How to engage with local media to promote your event, including templates for media advisories and press releases
- MFG Day Social Media Toolkit – How to connect with the greater MFG Day community on social media, including the MFG Day Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter handles, the official annual hashtag (#MFGDay19), as well as sample posts you can use to share your involvement in the celebration
Plan Your Presentation
MFG Day isn’t just any other day (or month) at your plant and it isn’t a typical plant tour. You’re inviting a lot of people — many of whom don’t know anything about manufacturing — into your facility to open their eyes to the reality and possibilities of manufacturing.
To connect with these newcomers, you’ll need to communicate effectively with them. You should:
- Write it down – Don’t try to wing a speech or a presentation. Plan ahead and write down what you’ll say. Ideally, your words will be accompanied with some sort of presentation, which could be a PowerPoint deck, a pre-recorded video, or a live demonstration.
- Avoid jargon – You’re probably inclined to use technical, “insider” language when you talk about your company. Don’t. Before you commit to any words, ask yourself if an elementary-school student would understand what you’re talking about.
- Make a handout – Give your attendees something tangible that accompanies your live presentation. This could include key information about your company that is relevant to them and your community such as when it started, who started it, how many people it employs, and other facts that speak to its importance to your area.
- Show and tell – Don’t just talk; show and tell. Call attention to the things that will catch a visitor’s eye and make a visual impression. Plan your presentation around those elements that will capture your attendee’s curiosity and lodge in their memories.
- Don’t show everything – You’re not going to be able to walk your visitors through every aspect of your business, so don’t try to. Be selective and zero in on the details that both strike you as important and promise to engage your audience.
For more detailed suggestions, make sure to read pages 11–12 of the MFG Day Host Toolkit.
Engage With Your Community
While manufacturers are at the heart of MFG Day, your MFG Day event will be much more successful if you are able to engage your surrounding community. You can:
- Contact partners – Reach out to those in your community with an interest in manufacturing, such as economic development agencies, workforce boards, post-secondary schools, chambers of commerce, and civic organizations. Consider creating work groups to focus on issues like recruiting companies, inviting attendees, and media outreach.
- Engage municipal officials – Contact your alderman or another member of your municipal assembly and ask them to deliver a speech at your MFG Day event or write a proclamation in support of manufacturing in your community that officially recognizes MFG Day. If your alderman gets involved, they may reach out to other community leaders such as the mayor or representatives in the state or national legislature. Your alderman can also speak to local education leaders and help organize transportation for students to your event.
- Lead your community – Design how your community celebrates MFG Day. Some previous participants have used their events as springboards to create MFG Week or MFG Month in their communities. What best fits your area’s manufacturing industry?
Connect With Your Local MEP Center
Many MEP Centers participate in MFG Day each year, helping hundreds of small and medium-sized manufacturers across the country plan, orchestrate, and promote their MFG Day events.
If you are considering hosting an MFG Day event and want some help planning your event, engaging your community, or simply navigating the mfgday.com online event registration process, your local MEP Center staff can help. Find the MEP Center in your state and reach out.
Ideal Toys is now defunct; their last great product was the Rubik’s Cube, although you may also know the company, founded by Morris and Rose Michtom in 1903 after they invented the teddy bear, for one of its other famous creations. Some of their most famous products included the Betsy Wetsy and Shirley Temple dolls, billed by the company, according to Collectors Weekly, as made of an unbreakable composition instead of the unglazed bisque that previously dominated the doll market. Once the largest doll-making company in the United States, Ideal Toys was eventually done in by competition and cheap knock-offs, particularly of the Rubik’s Cube, and today, after a series of sales and mergers, remains only as a brand, with many of the toys from its heyday now marketed and sold by other companies. Maybe they could have used a Manufacturing Day in their time, an opportunity to amplify their concerns and challenges, to take charge of their public image and connect with future generations.