Communication technologies are changing everything, including our political system. What's the value of showing up in person? I've been on the road more in the past year and a half. Last weekend, I attended a trade show, my first in a long while. The housewares industry is favorable to licensing, but I'd never been before. Wow. What an incredible event -- what an incredibly overwhelming event, to be honest. There were more than 2,100 companies displaying their new product launches. It was dizzying. Will I be back next year? Absolutely. If you want to license your ideas to the housewares industry, this show is as relevant as ever.

I talk a lot about how when licensing works, it's a partnership. Getting to the right person -- that person who is going to champion your innovation -- can be frustrating. Sometimes you have to be dogged, even though LinkedIn has made reaching out to potential licensees so much easier. But the thing about the housewares show, well, it's uniquely democratic: For the most part, we were all there, sharing the same space, with a total absence of gatekeepers. Salespeople, marketers, even CEOs -- all there, feeling inspired by the new products, milling about. Right there in front of you for the introducing! (On the other hand, a few companies had quite literally shielded themselves from the crowd with towering, impregnable walls. Do you think those companies embrace open innovation? Not so much.)

Really, that's a huge reason why attending the housewares show is so valuable: Direct access.

I asked companies about their open innovation policies, and they told me. Most wanted to hear from us. Some wanted to hear even more ideas. I heard one sales rep explicitly declare her love of an inventor's product that was debuting at the show and how she was using it as a marketing tool. But you have to go about it the right way, by starting to build a relationship. It's simple. Ask: Are they open to hearing product developers' ideas? Companies will tell you what they're looking for. Then, what's a good way of getting in touch? If you don't get the response you're asking for, don't be afraid to chat someone else up. Some companies embrace innovation outright, like OXO. Within others, attitudes among employees differ. And at the show, there are differing objectives.

It didn't just work for me: One of my students piqued such interest with her sell sheet, an exhibitor requested a follow up sales call that same night.

The most successful independent product developers, they cultivate their relationships with companies. They get to a point where they're exchanging ideas closely, which is absolutely priceless. Everyone wins.

If you hit the ground running, there's no quicker way to get a snap shot of an industry. My advice? Bring comfortable walking shoes; the show is staggeringly huge. There was so much to do, I felt like I barely scraped the surface. Even so, it was worthwhile: I came away inspired by the new products, by the speech Kevin Harrington gave, by the meals I had with my team, by taking friendships on social media offline.

Don't wait. Make the effort to really invest time in your industry, not only by showing up, by seizing the day.