The trade show – some people feed off them like a leech on a warm mammal, others see them as a necessary evil that must be endured. Regardless of which camp you’re in, the trade show is an effective way to meet people, get information, and learn new things to improve your business. Many people who attend trade shows aren’t as prepared as they should be, and so miss out on different aspects that would really have helped. Check out my tips for being a good trade show attendee!
- Pre-register as early as you can. Many trade show organizers provide extra amenities to early registrants, such as lower registration fees, choice pick of convention hotels, attendance at special events, and more.
- Study the schedule. You’ll have access to a list of speakers & seminars. Sit down with the schedule, and decide who you will mark as a priority. When I attended THETRADESHOW in Las Vegas recently, I noted several speakers I wished to hear. I researched more about them, their history in the industry, and that helped me narrow the field down a bit. You should at least know SOMETHING about the speaker before you enter the room!
- Know what vendors you want to see. Some folks spend their time at trade shows by wandering the maze of booths, looking for something that jumps out at them. Instead, look at the booth map provided, and devise a plan to visit your top priority booths as early as possible. Also, make a note of booths that will not be of interest to you and skip them entirely; you can always visit them later in the show, after you’ve gotten to all your “must have” booths. The point here is to maximize your time with the vendors who are of most interest to you.
- Know why you’re visiting that vendor. Are you coming by to see what new product line is being launched? Have you not heard of them before and wonder if they offer something to improve your business or improve your client’s travel experience? Have you used them before, and just want to meet someone from the company and say “thanks for being there!” This way, you can maximize your time and get the most return on your investment.
- SWAG. It’s a trade show staple that SWAG stands for “Stuff We All Get.” Trade show booths are notorious for giving out trinkets, brochures, and other items. You’ll need to get that stuff home. I have a soft-sided travel bag that can be folded up to fit inside my hard-sided roller bag. I pack my roller bag with clothes and etc. and use the expandable bag for the trade show stuff I bring home. Bear in mind if you’re flying, you may be liable for extra baggage fees. For THETRADESHOW, I flew Southwest, which allows two bags for no fee. That helped the budget!
- Stay close. If the trade show organizers have arranged for discounted hotel rooms near the convention center, take advantage of them. This is especially helpful if the hotel is one you’ve not experienced and what to see what it would have to offer your clients. Bear in mind that not all trade shows will provide transportation between the hotel and the convention center, which may influence your choice of accommodations.
- Dress right. The order of the day at most trade shows is business casual. You are a representative for your business and your brand – image goes a long way. Pretend you’re meeting a very important VIP client for the first time, and you are dressing to impress. Wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll be walking and standing a lot. While some trade shows provide a tote bag of some kind, be prepared in case one is not provided.
- Double-check everything. Trade show exhibitors can change, seminars can change, and speakers can change. When you arrive at the trade show, double-check your agenda with an updated agenda and make changes accordingly.
- Be prepared. Have a notepad and a pen handy for writing quick notes. Make certain to bring plenty of business cards – you’ll hand them out like Halloween candy! If you purchase anything at the trade show, make a note of the costs immediately to make sure you don’t go over budget.
- Have fun. While trade shows are important for your business, don’t forget to have fun. Don’t feel like you have to stay cooped up all day browsing the booths. Take some time to leave the trade show, get some fresh air, grab a cup of coffee, and regroup. Don’t forget the most fun part of trade shows – meeting people! Don’t be scared to introduce yourself to others. Make plans to have a meal with a new friend, or an old one you haven’t seen in ages. Explore the trade show city if and when you can, to get a little vacation out of the shinding.
Of course, after the trade show is over and you’ve returned home, take some time to assess the entire experience. Was it worth it for you? If you did not attend, would you have been better or worse off? I think you’ll find that planning ahead made a huge difference, making your time at the trade show well spent. Best part is, you won’t bring home as much stuff that you end up throwing out!
What about you? Do you have some tips to share for a successful trade show? Please leave a comment!
Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS is a three-year industry veteran with Sunnyland Tours & Travel in Springfield, MO. He holds Lifestyle Specialist designations in Luxury Travel and Gay/Lesbian Travel, and is known for specializing in cruises, Western European tours, group travel, and culinary-themed travel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through his website at http://www.JourneysBySteve.com.