Industry trade shows are some of the most educational, fun, and busiest times of the year for many people, especially those of us who attend several throughout the year. For us, it’s a time to exhibit, visit friends and colleagues in the industry, and even see what’s new.
We look forward to attending these trade shows, although it can also be stressful, especially if you go in without a game plan. But if you use just a few strategies, you can come out on the other end with some excellent contacts, good information, and new ideas.
1. Decide which vendors you need to visit and map them out. Try to prioritize them and then choose the most efficient way to see them all. Sometimes the “grocery store” approach doesn’t always work, especially when the trade show floor is the size of a few football fields. Save the browsing for after your important visits.
2. Schedule important meetings. There are some trade show meetings you absolutely have to have — contract signings, sales presentations, customer service issues. Schedule a time with the appropriate people, either in their booth or over lunch or coffee. It’s easy to lose track of time on the show floor, so put the meetings on your schedule, set an alarm or two, and then text the other person to let them know you’re on your way. That can also be a reminder to them.
3. Don’t worry about work. Hopefully you’ve worked ahead, set your email auto responder to let people know you’re out, and have coworkers covering things back at the office. You’re not going to be at a gathering this large for a while, so make the most of it. There’s plenty of time to answer emails later, like in your room at night. Don’t hide away in a lounge to get work done. You’re at the place that could end up being the most profitable and educational of the year. Plus, you probably paid to be there. Why would you waste those opportunities?
4. Attend educational sessions. Many trade shows have educational sessions and classes. If there are any that will help you do your job better, attend them. The knowledge you get in an info-packed hour could save you many hours of reading and learning from your mistakes.
5. Enter all your business cards into your contacts list. Send a “thank you/good to meet you” email to everyone you met. Also, be sure to capture all their contact information and thoughts in your database or CRM system while they’re still fresh in your mind. Do this in your hotel room that night, while you’re answering emails.
6. Wear the most comfortable shoes you have. You’re going to spend up to 8 – 10 hours on your feet, so take a couple pairs of comfortable shoes. Get some some leather walking shoes or tennis shoes that don’t look weird with your show attire. Alternate between pairs every other day.
7. Write up a trip report. Summarize what you found, who you met, what you discussed, and any needed follow-up. This also helps determine sales and ROI of the show. When you get ready for next year’s show, refer to the report. Reach out to the key people you met last year — hopefully you’ve been communicating throughout the year — and arrange new meetings.
With a plan, you can make the most of every minute while you’re there to make it a truly worthwhile and cost-effective event.
This post was published on September 23, 2015 and updated on November 2, 2018.
September 23, 2015