Whether you are visiting a trade show as a guest, or exhibiting as a vendor, there are a few things that you should keep in mind before showing up on Day 1.
PRE-REGISTER: First things first… When attending any trade show, as a vendor or a guest, you must register for the show. There are often many advantages to pre-registering for the event. Primarily the biggest benefit to registering early is saving money. Every show offers a discount to both vendors and guests for pre-registering, whether it is to purchase a booth spot, or purchase an admission ticket. Pre-registering can give you priority when choosing booth locations, and sometimes even allows you to arrive 30 minutes early and avoid standing in long lines to get in the building.
MAP & PLAN / SCHEDULE / CHECKLIST: Set goals and know what you want to accomplish from attending each show. If there are specific goals you wish to complete by the end of the show, make a list and plan out your moves. Most trade shows offer a map of the display floor ahead of time. Look at the map and plan out exactly which booths you want to visit first, and prioritize in advance. Sometimes it is possible to make appointments ahead of time with exhibitors you really want to visit with. Having a one-on-one meeting with an exhibitor can help better your chances with any intentions you may have for them and understanding their offerings.
COMFORTABLE SHOES: Whether you are a vendor who is standing in one spot in a booth interacting with customers all day, or a guest that is wandering around all day networking, anyone that has attended any type of convention or trade show knows that you will do your fair share of walking and being on your feet. Avoiding shoes with pointed toes, open toes, and high heels is vital in enjoying your experience. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes with you!
BUSINESS CARDS: Take plenty of business cards with you! Whether you are in the bathroom at the convention center, your hotel across the street, in an elevator, or at the popular bar across the street, you never know where you could meet an important contact. But these days, giving someone your business card isn’t good enough—don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and ask for a business card from them as well. This way you know you have their information to contact them after the show, regardless if they do anything with your card.
SOCIAL MEDIA: Social media offers a whole new level of insight at trade shows. Be active on social media and take advantage of hashtags. As an exhibitor, social media can help drive traffic to your booth, and distribute news about products to drive interest in your products or services. As a visitor, social media can encourage conversations with fellow business people who are at the show, allowing you an entirely new networking platform to meet up with people and chat.
FOLLOW UP / NETWORK: Networking is essential to building business. Follow up with leads or any important interactions you made at the show as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more time the individual has to forget about you and any information you shared with them. It is important that you follow up and maintain relationships with people you meet at conventions or trade shows! Don’t forget, they are meeting thousands of people in a short time-span, so setting yourself apart from the rest is key in making someone remember you.
After returning home or to the office, sit down and evaluate the information and contacts you have received throughout your time, and put a plan into action. How are you going to use the knowledge you have gained from the show to your advantage? Conferences and/or trade shows can have the perfect marketing and sales opportunities to gather information about competitors, maintain relationships, sell, and find new business contacts in your industry. Make the best use of your time and your trip is going to be a worth-while investment. There are endless amounts of benefits and resources you can take advantage of if you research the show prior to attending. Cheers to a great trade show season!