Trade show season is here. It’s an opportunity to network with other individuals in your industry, learn invaluable information on a variety of topics, and get a lot of free stuff! Additionally, and probably most importantly, trade shows are a time to make huge contributions to your company, whether that be finding partners, gaining leads, or developing your skills and knowledge as a professional.
With that being said, here are some tips to get the most out of your trade shows this year!
Decide on objectives both for yourself or for your business. Consider what you want to achieve or gain from attending the trade show. Ask your boss what she/he hopes you can bring back for the organization.
There are a lot of things happening at trade shows: seminars, demonstrations, vendor booths, etc. To take advantage of all the knowledge and networking opportunities, you must plan out your time. You can usually access the schedule of activities in the event’s app or on the website. Pick the presentations you want to watch and decide which vendors you want to meet. One recommendation is to divide your vendor list into two: must-sees and want-to-sees.
It is also a good idea to get a map to see where the presentations will take place and where vendors are positioned in the concourse. Then you can plan out your walking path to take full advantage of your time.
Pre-registering for trade shows allows you to get into the event more quickly and may be less expensive.
Before you pack your bags, check the trade show’s dress code. Bring your two most comfortable pairs of shoes because you are going to be on your feet for most of the day on either concrete or very thin carpet. Pack a comfortable “carry all” bag to hold all the materials you gather while at the show. Leave some room in your suitcase for the stuff you will bring back with you.
Before your trip, stay hydrated with lots of water, pack ear plugs and/or an eye mask to ensure sound sleep, and consider taking a preventive measure like Emergen-C or another immune booster. While at the trade show, make sure to drink enough water to stay hydrated and wash your hands frequently. Carry some hand sanitizer with you since you’ll be shaking a lot of stranger’s hands! Eat fruits, veggies, and other nutritious foods while at the venue and the hotel. Go to bed early to get enough sleep.
Set Up Meetings
Schedule time with the vendors or exhibitors you want to talk to or the demos you want to see. You can then plan the rest of your days around these times. It’s also a good idea to plan time for existing connections. This allows you to see what they are working on and if you’re still a good fit as a partner.
Check Your Coat and Bags
Check your coat, bags, and other items so you don’t have to carry them around with you all day. Just bring your small “carry-all” for the materials you will accumulate.
Make the Most of Your Company’s Time
Balance your time wisely between seminars, vendors, and networking. Keep your goals in mind as you interact because you are, after all, still working. Find out if anyone else from your organization will be there. If so, work with then to divide up the seminars and vendors to cover the most ground, make the most connections, and gain the most knowledge.
Pass by the Crowded Booths
Avoid the most crowded booths to make the most of your time. If you want to visit that vendor, make a note to come back. The second day is typically the best time to visit because it’s the slowest.
Bring Plenty of Business Cards
Because, networking. Also write notes on the back of cards you receive so you can recall the conversation and reference important parts in your follow-up.
Use Breath Mints
Also, because networking. You might have to lean in to be heard in the nosy concourse and you’d rather smell like spearmint than garlic. The people you’ll be talking to prefer that, too.
Trade shows are the optimal place to network. Make yourself known by introducing yourself to anyone of interest, especially the vendors and exhibitors you want to talk to. Prepare an elevator pitch for yourself as a method to introduce yourself, engage in conversation, and make the best first impression. Ask open-ended questions when meeting new contacts and forming new relationships.
Write a Trip Report
At the end of every day, organize the materials you gathered and write up a summary of what you learned, who you met, and any next steps. This will be helpful when you get back to the office, especially if you have to present your findings. It can also be helpful when determining ROI for the show.
Review this report before you go back to the trade show next year.
There is a lot to keep in mind to take full advantage of trade shows! These events are great places to network and learn about your industry. Invaluable partnerships can be formed, and leads can be gained. Keep these tips in mind this trade show season as you represent your company!