Getting the Most out of Trade Shows

Greg Hartmann, FastenMaster National Accounts Manager

Getting The Most Out of Trade Shows

Wow! Trade shows are expensive. Airfare, parking, meals, hotels, taxis, after show activities, sitters, kennels, the extra hours for someone to cover you while you are away… It can be a daunting dollar amount.

You know that what you gain in knowledge about your industry at the shows is valuable but that knowledge doesn't come cheap. I would like to give you some tips on getting the most out of the trade shows you attend. Like many things we do, preparation beforehand has everything to do with how meaningful the show can be.

Have Goals

We have a routine at FastenMaster prior to exhibiting at a trade show. Every employee involved with our shows makes a list of what he or she expects to accomplish at the show. That list is then sent to all the other employees attending. Do this with your company. Making this list forces you to sit down and think about what is most important to you. Think about your goals for a while. Keep notes for several days while you make your list. What are the things you question every day? What things make you think there must be a better way? Are there business processes you struggle with? What new products have you heard of and want to find out more about? Are there activities you see other builders involved in that you are wondering if you should get involved in? Are there products you use and don't get the desired results with?

If your list is too long you may not be able to get to everything. Be sure to prioritize your goals on the list.

Where are you Going?

Book your accommodations early. Try to stay at the host hotel or the hotel adjacent to or closest to the exhibition hall. These are usually a little more expensive but worth it. Being able to attend every available function while avoiding travel time and cab fares to and from the show can be worth the extra expense. Comfortable rooms and easy walks to the show make for a much more enjoyable trip.

How are you Getting There?

If you are lucky, the show is within an easy drive. Good for you. Take your time and enjoy the ride.

If you have to fly to the show, look for the airline with the best service and the most flights between you and the show. Book early. Flights to the bigger shows will fill up quickly.

Call your hotel and ask for the best way to get from the airport to the hotel. Hotel shuttles are always easiest. Commuter light rails can be great too. The light rail systems in Baltimore, Atlanta, Portland and several other cities run right from baggage claim at the airport to the hotels closest to the convention centers for a couple bucks.

Map it Out

Most tradeshows have maps for download on their websites. On your map, mark the locations of the exhibitors you want to visit. Even though the exhibition floors are usually straightforward layouts, it is easy to miss some exhibits. With all the seminars you plan on hitting, time on the show floor may be limited. Trying to find an exhibitor during a quick walk up and down aisles will not be productive.

Check in with your Trade Groups

Are you a member of any trade groups? As part of your planning, check your trade organizations website for events that may be planned at the show. If the trade organizations you belong to are at the show, be sure to visit them. They may have a discounted or no charge admission for you to take advantage of. Lunches and member receptions are not uncommon and are a great place to network while enjoying complimentary food and drink. Find where your trade organizations are located at the show and mark them on your map.

There's an App for That

Many of the trade shows now have apps for your smart phone. Download it. This is another valuable tool to maximize your time. You will always have schedules and maps handy and you will be aware of any updates and schedule changes.

Time to Execute

Be sure to get all you can out of every seminar you attend. Pick up any literature available on the subject. Write down any recommended sources of information.  If time permits hang around after seminars are over to network with other participants or the speakers.

Hit those manufacturers' booths. Don't just window shop and walk down each aisle just glancing in to the exhibits. Having the actual products in front of you and experts to talk to is far superior to anything you will find on the internet or at your local dealers. Manufactures usually staff the trade shows with their most experienced people. They will have the depth of knowledge and the experience to address your concerns and understand your applications.

Bring Your Team

If time, budget and workload allow, bring all appropriate members of your team that can learn from the seminars or the exhibitors. This may seem expensive but is probably a bargain when you consider the knowledge they will return with. It can also be a great team building experience and may even help you retain employees.

By doing all the preparation and accomplishing all your goals you may find trade shows can be the most valuable thing you do to improve your business.

See you there!


October 4, 2013 by Janet Blake (comments: 0)

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