Written by Victoria Nardini / Stahls January 6, 2016
Attending a trade show is, without a doubt, a great way to grow your business. Whether you’re going to classes, making purchases, or networking, these events are full of opportunities. Because trade shows can be so exciting it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and forget the basics. That’s why it’s always a good reminder to come with a plan and be well prepared. Here are a few tips and tricks on how to successfully enjoy a trade show.
Trade show survival
Pictures. Always ask if you can take pictures, whether it’s a part, display, or sample that you would like to try. It is typically prohibited by show management to take pictures but if you ask, you might be able to catch a shot of something amazing.
Shop around. Trade shows are a great place to get discounts on products that you may have been looking to add to your business. Just like you would at a large store, make sure you come prepared with a list of questions, and explain what it is that you are looking to do. You may find that the product might not be a good fit, or there is a particular supplier you would rather work with based on education, not necessarily price.
Education. Check out the class schedule before heading to the event. Some trade shows will have free seminars or discount class packages. Try going a day early to take some classes and then walk the floor the next day or immediately following. Most show promoters will not allow speakers to “sell” during the classes, so you know you’re getting a real education and helpful information.
Samples, literature, etc. Be sure to only take what you absolutely need. Some attendees like to travel heavy and will bring a cart with them to collect samples, literature, and cash and carry items. Remember, this can start to pile up in your show bag and weigh you down. If fly to the show, you will to somehow have fit all of this in your suitcase. What’s more, with so many samples and brochures, you can easily forget what companies and products you were actually interested in effectively defeating the purpose of meeting with these exhibitors in person.
Budget. If you do plan on buying at the show, set a budget beforehand. It is very easy to get caught up in the excitement and want to buy everything that will help your business. You can always purchase items at multiple shows throughout the year, which gives you an excuse to visit some cool cities along the way, not to mention space out big purchases.
Come with questions. This is your time to learn. Exhibitors are sending their best team to meet with customers face to face, make connections, and build relationships.
Mingle. Introduce yourself, smile, and pass out business cards. Networking is a huge part of the success of a trade show. Even though you may meet a person or company that isn’t a good fit for your business plan, they may know of other businesses that could work for you and your team. Don’t miss the opportunity to attend after hours mixers and find out about the local dining hotspots.
Comfortable footwear. I will never understand wearing heels at a trade show. You want to look your best, sure, but be mindful that you will be walking on concrete for the next three days. That can take its toll on your feet and legs. This advice goes for everyone. Take precautions with blister blockers, band aids, Tylenol and even shoe inserts. You don’t want to be so focused on the pain that you aren’t taking in everything else around you.
Eat and drink. Talking all day can be very dehydrating. Many trade shows are now providing water, and some exhibitors give out small bottles throughout the show. Be sure to snag some water whenever you have the opportunity. Sometimes you get so caught up in the excitement, you forget to eat. I find it handy to bring a few protein bars with me in case I don’t have an opportunity to eat, or the convention center is only serving hot dogs and French fries.