12 tips for staying sharp while attending your first Annual Convention.
Or more accurately, we’re dragging, we’re dragging. At least that’s how many people feel when attending a trade show. And the bigger the show, the worse it is. Large shows feature endless aisles of exhibitors, and the pressure is on to see them all. However, that’s not really the best way to receive the most value when attending a trade show. Because of the limited hours for each show, you really should be thinking quality, not quantity.
Your attendance at an industry show for your company is a business opportunity, and you must approach it in that manner. It’s costing the company money and resources to send you there, and you must return with solid evidence that it has invested wisely. Here are 12 tips to make your time at any trade show worthwhile.
#1 Have Goals
Make a list of specific goals that you want to achieve by attending the show. Such goals may be business or personal and could include:
- Assessing the market prior to a new product launch
- Checking out the latest technology
- Scouting the competition
- Identifying potential business partners, reps, suppliers, etc.
#2 Know Where You’re Going
Almost all major shows have a Web site, and you can easily search by company and/or category prior to even showing up, enabling you to prioritize your visits. Use a simple system to categorize them to save time, i.e.:
- Red: “Must see”
- Blue: “Try and visit”
- Yellow: “If I have time”
- Everybody else.
Print out a copy of the exhibit hall map and color code your targeted companies. This should help you to determine which end of the hall to work first, especially if all of the reds are clumped in one area. Such a system is especially helpful if you only have one day and/or a couple of hours to visit the show. Remember, though, that there may be last-minute changes so you will want to double check your listings against the final map once you arrive on site.
If you do have the time to walk the whole show, however, start at one end and work your way to the other, being sure to frequently check to see that you haven’t inadvertently passed up an important contact. Just follow the bread crumbs.
#3 Have Questions Ready
Know what you want to find out, especially when visiting the red booths. Have a checklist of questions available and be sure you get your answers. Or, if you don’t, be sure to let the booth staff know that you want more information or need a salesperson to call.
#4 Take Business Cards
While most shows usually have electronic card readers available for use by the various exhibitors, there are occasions when you will need business cards. Be sure to have a LOT of them with you.
#5 Pen and Paper
You’re going to need both to take notes. Have them available.
#6 Don’t Load Yourself Down
Have the exhibitors send you the information you request as collecting all this valuable information (i.e., debris) gets awfully heavy very quickly. Additionally, if the exhibitors don’t follow up with you in a timely fashion, it provides you with an insight as to how they may handle the rest of their business activities.
#7 Don’t be a Piggy!
One of the highlights of most shows is the availability of giveaways at the various booths. Unfortunately, there are a lot of attendees who take these items for their kids, their grandkids, the kids next door, etc. These people are called “goodie-grabbers” and are not held in high esteem by booth staff. The exhibiting companies bought these items in order to put their names in front of their prospects. They are not meant to be stocking stuffers for the masses. Be considerate!
#8 Take a Break
Your legs (and your mind) become very weary after about two hours. Therefore, take a break. Sit down and have a drink. Meet someone for lunch. Then, when you resume your journey, you’ll feel refreshed.
#9 Wear Comfortable Shoes
Don’t overlook this one. And if you purchased new shoes to look good, break them in first!
#10 Double-Check Your Progress
If the show is more than a one-day event, be sure to go back and revisit your plan at the end of each day. Make modifications as necessary.
#11 Summarize the Situation
When you return to the office, put together a report to submit to your management team summarizing your goals for the show, your findings, and your recommendations.
#12 Have Fun!
Trade shows are hard work, but they can also be a lot of fun and provide a great opportunity to meet and greet with key industry contacts. The last vestige of face-to-face marketing, they are a great way to meet new friends and renew old acquaintances. Use them to your advantage!
|Meet the Author
Meg Merritt is the owner of Trade Show Navigators, LLC.