With Spring comes the trade shows, conferences, conventions and FAMs. We don’t want to waste our time, and we want to maximize any benefits that we glean from the shows and FAMs that we attend. More often than not though, agents wander around trade shows without a plan of attack, drifting from one session to the next, and aimlessly wandering around trade show floors. Some agents leave trade shows, frustrated that they missed a key supplier on the trade show floor, or missed a presentation that they had wanted to attend.
Here are a few tips on how to maximize your time at any trade show that you attend.
More often than not, multiple presentations will be offered in the same time slot, and usually they are not offered multiple times. Before you leave home, review the show agenda (keep in mind, last minute changes can happen). As you review the agenda, pick ONE session that you want to attend for each time slot. Of the two to four presentations offered, read the brief descriptions and decide which ONE you feel would help your business the most. If more than one session interests you, coordinate with other agents from your agency to divide and conquer. If you are the lone agent in your agency, then consider partnering with other agents that you know (in person or via travel agent online sources), and coordinate a plan of attack to attend as many sessions as possible and share notes.
When you attend the presentations, collect any handouts that are provided and TAKE NOTES. Your brain will be on information overload by the end of the show; taking notes is the best way to ensure you don’t forget any valuable nuggets of information. Also, if you have partnered with agents to share information, note taking is imperative. You can also voice-record the presentation, but only if the speaker has provided his/her permission (you can ask before the presentation starts). With today’s technology, a good number of agents use tablets to take their notes.
At the end of the day, review your notes from that day’s sessions while everything is still fresh in your mind. Think of how the information applies to your business. Made additional notes with ideas you come up with that you can put into place once you return home.
Trade Show Floor
Before leaving home go through the list of trade show floor exhibitors and highlight those you want to visit. In all likelihood there will be HUNDREDS of suppliers in attendance, and you will have a finite time to work within. I recommend color coding and categorizing the suppliers into three categories: MUST visit, would LIKE to visit, and CAN visit.
These are the suppliers that you want to spend some time with, building a relationship, and getting specific information. Maybe it is a cruise line that you have not sold, but want to start selling. Maybe it is a tourism board of a destination that you want to get to know. Maybe it is a supplier you already sell, but you want marketing co-op assistance. Think about each supplier and what you SPECIFICALLY want to achieve by meeting with them, keeping in mind you’ll have a limited amount of time to speak with them. Approach their booth with your list of questions, wants, or needs in hand so that you are ready for a brief conversation with the representative working the booth.
LIKE to Visit
These are suppliers that you have a mild interest in learning about, but you don’t have a specific agenda with them (yet). These are suppliers that if you do not have the time to stop and chat, you at least want to grab their brochures and business cards off their table. You can always follow up with them after the show. If you have the time to spend at their booth, be prepared with your questions for them as well.
These are the rest of the suppliers. Right now they don’t fit into your business plan. At the very least you want to swing by their booth to grab a business card (and if you want to be on their email list, leave your business card). Don’t bog yourself down with their brochures if you’re never going to look at them once you get home. If you have their business card, you can always follow up later and request that they ship brochures to you.
Plan of Attack
Take into consideration how many hours you will have to work the trade show floor. Review your “must visit” list and give yourself approximately 5 minutes per booth where you want to spend time. Do you have enough time? If you have a total of 5 hours on the trade show floor, that is 300 minutes. If you have 20 suppliers on your “must visit” list then that is approximately one third of your time on the floor.
Plan to work the floor starting on one side of the room, working your way across the room, by going up and down the aisles in order. Avoid crisscrossing the room multiple times, which eats up precious time. Hit your “must visit” booths as you go, while quickly picking up brochures, business cards from your “like” and “can” lists along the way. If time permits, you can revisit the like booths. Once you have completed your “must” list, evaluate your remaining time, and work your way back across the room. This time stopping and visiting at booths on your “likes” list, where you can spend a few minutes chatting and asking questions.
In general, hauling brochures home from a conference or trade show can be a challenge. Some agents resort to bringing an empty suitcase in order to accommodate all of the swag they pick up from suppliers. Others have resorted to asking suppliers to ship them materials so they don’t have to haul anything through airport security. The other option is to go onto supplier websites and order only the brochures that you need or want.
Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel (www.shipsntripstravel.com) located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations (www.kickbuttvacations.com) she focuses on travel for 18 to 23 year olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.