There is plenty of information on how to set up the best possible presentation at a trade show and have a “must-visit” booth. But how can you maximize your time as an attendee of a busy trade show?
Attending trade shows can serve many purposes: networking, getting up-to-date on the latest products, and getting advice on your business. Here are 10 tips that can help you get the most out of attending a trade show.
- Have a game plan: Too many trade show attendees are more concerned about making reservations at the area’s top restaurant than they are about scheduling meetings with important vendors and attending the most interesting seminars. Register in advance for several reasons. First, there is often a reduced fee for early registrants. Second, you will be up-to-date on who is speaking and what vendors will be displaying. That way you can take your time mapping out a plan and listing what your goals are for attending the show.
- Know which booths you want to visit: Which vendors will help you the most? Where are they located on the convention floor? Review the list of presenters and determine in advance the ones you want to see. If possible, set up advance appointments to meet some of these participants. Suggest a late lunch, which allows you to get off the crowded trade show floor and have a one-on-one meeting when the popular lunching locations are less busy. Depending on the size of the venue, you may also want to map out a logical route, while avoiding the most popular booths during the peak hours, which are typically between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- Gather materials in advance: To maximize your meetings, call two weeks ahead and request advance literature. This saves you the time and trouble of reading it at the event.
- Have your own materials on hand: From business cards to brochures, have your materials prepared, proofed, and ready to go before you leave. Then hand them out to whomever you meet. Networking is a major part of attending a conference or a trade show. Be ready to schmooze, but don’t waste too much time chatting with those who cannot help you attain your goals.
- Have a backup plan: There’s nothing worse than wandering around because your 2:30 appointment is nowhere to be found. List other potential booths to visit that can also be beneficial. And leave a little flexibility in your day to reschedule important meetings if necessary.
- Eat and take breaks: Clearly you are not at your best when you are hungry or overtired or your feet are killing you. Schedule breaks, find a place to rest your feet, and take some time to eat. Also, minimize your alcohol intake until after you leave the event.
- Don’t get distracted: Glamour, glitz, attractive models, and free giveaways are meant to lure you to specific booths. Sure you’ll want to stop by and see what all the commotion is about, but if there is no good reason for you to linger, move on. Many attendees get sidetracked and waste far too much time at booths that are not productive to their plans.
- Negotiate: If you are buying at a trade show, be patient. Unless a particular booth has long lines, you’ll find that most sellers are willing to negotiate, especially if the show isn’t packed and its near the end of the day. That goes double for the end of the show. If it’s a choice between lugging the merchandise home and selling it for a little less, many vendors will opt to sell for less.
- Don’t get loaded down: Start by carrying only your business essentials, then pick up lightweight goods throughout the day. Everything else can be ordered, shipped, or at least held safely until later in the day so you do not have to carry it around.
- Stay organized: Many return from trade shows with business cards in every pocket and data overload. Take time each day to sort out your contacts, review any deals, and touch base with your home office; keep staff abreast of your activities as well as on hand as a backup source. E-mail your activities, contact numbers, and information to your office computer or to your assistant so you are backed up in case your laptop crashes or you lose a few business cards.