Making the Most of Industry Trade Shows

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Photo by Jane Doan

Trade show season is here again, which means it is time to prepare for the walking, mingling, walking, questions, and walking. (Did I mention that you’ll be doing a lot of walking?) Getting in the right mindset for a trade show can make a huge difference in your experience. Once you’re there, make the most of it by following through on key steps that you already prepared for. It isn’t done when the show is over, though. Industry trade shows only reap benefits if you finish what you start. Check out all of the tips and tricks you need to get the highest results.

Tips for Trade Show Prep

Set goals. Make sure you know what you want to get out of the show. Are you looking for the newest products? Do you have a few specific clients with specialized requests? Do you want to find some new suppliers? Get your goal(s) on paper so that you can stay focused.

Download the mobile app. Thankfully, the digital age has brought some tools that make trade shows easier to handle. Organizers often supply attendees with an app that can help them navigate the show. This will likely include a floor plan, a list of presentations and / or education opportunities, alerts for drawings from different vendors, and more.

Use the organizer’s website. Organizations that host trade shows will have plenty of information on their site to help you prepare. There will be lists of vendors who will have booths. Many will also give information on food & drink policies, ADA accommodations, and times of presentations on the showroom floor.

Come up with questions. Always be prepared to ask questions! Address your goals list and decide who you need to contact and what you should ask. Look at the floor plan and try to create a walk-through route that hits the most pertinent vendors. Make notes of any projects you have that need direct and specific answers. Also, ask generalized questions. Know what is going on in the industry and what you can do to adjust.

Prepare a conversation closer. It can be hard getting away from a booth without sounding rude. Unfortunately, time is limited and you have other booths to visit. Have something ready to say that can help you politely escape. Asking for a business card is always a great way to leave gracefully. Another example would be, “Thanks for the information. Have a great rest of the show!”

Photo by Oleksandr P

Tips for Walking the Show

Bring too many business cards. You can never actually have too many business cards on you, but you should feel like you do. (I cannot even remember how many times I have run out of business cards at networking events.) Keep them in an easy-to-access spot, such as a pocket. Purses and wallets can create a moment of impatience as you try to get to the cards.

Talk to everyone. Networking is a huge benefit to trade shows. Speak to every vendor whose booth you visit, as well as everyone around you. If you sit in on an educational session, chat with your neighbor. (Only do this before and after the presentation!) See what they are looking to get out of the session. Need to step outside for some fresh air? You may find others outside, too. Ask how they are enjoying the show and if there are any booths that they suggest.

Wear comfortable shoes. While you don’t need to train for a marathon, walking is just part of the experience. Pack comfortable walking shoes. The key, though, is to be comfortable without looking “too comfortable.” Don’t show up in a tank top or Daisy Duke shorts. You never know who you may meet!

Take pictures. We often want to remember what we find at these shows, but we can never seem to write everything down. Take a billion pictures of vendor’s booth signs to remember who to contact, or snap images of new products that you want to show a customer.

Tips for After the Show

Organize your notes and photos. Once you’re home, get your notes in order. Upload pictures and sort into folders that you can easily access when you’re ready to tackle a new project. Prepare all of your information for the next step: sales.

Follow up. Go through that stack of business cards and start typing. Send a quick email to each and every person from whom you got a card. To save time, you can even copy / paste a generic email like, “It was great seeing you in [city of trade show]. Let’s chat some about this new project I have. When do you have a minute to chat?”

Take a break. Trade shows are exhausting. Carve out some time immediately when you get home from the show to just relax!

AJ Jewell

AJ Jewell

Amber "AJ" Jewell started at in 2016 as a part-time admin assistant, quickly moving to be the 'Duchess of Flow" - making sure that the office is flowing smoothing. AJ is also an award-nominated author, homeschooling parent of three, an avid reader, and a college student.
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