Trade shows offer a fantastic opportunity to network, gather new ideas and access a lot of potential vendors and contacts at one time. However, as an attendee, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or miss out on valuable business connections if you don’t have a game plan.
Check out these simple tips that can make a big difference in helping you get the most out of your next trade show!
- Identify your objectives. Before you get to the show, take a few moments to jot down your goals for the event. What do you hope to accomplish by attending this show? Who do you want to meet? What projects or events do you have coming up that you need to source products/services for? Knowing your objectives will make a big difference in how you manage your time and what you get out of the show! If you’re attending JDA’s upcoming Fall Product Showcase, share those objectives with your sales rep beforehand to maximize your show experience.
- Map out a strategy. For larger events, you’ll want to grab a copy of the show map and do a little planning before you hit the floor. If there’s an online directory of vendors or layout of the show booths, print it out and highlight any “must-see” booths. If time is limited, you’ll want to visit your “must-see” booths first, and then browse from aisle to aisle for other vendors. For multi-day events, decide how much ground you want to cover each day.
TREND ALERT: More and more events are offering mobile apps for your smartphone or tablet. These apps are loaded with information, such as maps/directories, schedules, and FAQs. If you’re tech-savvy, you’ll love having all the show details at your fingertips!
- Make appointments. At big trade shows, there will be lots of foot traffic through the most popular booths. If you’ve got a vendor that you really want to see, contact them ahead of time to schedule an appointment. They’ll appreciate being able to arrange coverage for the booth so that they can give you their undivided attention! If you’re coming to JDA’s Fall Product Showcase, you don’t have to worry about making appointments with specific vendors. However, it might be a good idea to let your sales rep know what time you plan to stop by the show so that they can arrange to meet with you.
- Dress comfortably. You never know what the temperature will be like inside the venue, so consider wearing layers. Most importantly, wear comfortable shoes! Let’s face it, your feet are going to be tired after all that walking. Ladies, if you can’t live without your high heels, pack some comfy flats in a tote bag and swap shoes halfway through the day. (Your feet will thank you later.) Word of Caution: Don’t try to break in a new pair of shoes at the show. Trust us on this one!
- Take notes. We’ve all been there. You go to an event, see the perfect product for your big project, and then…you get home and it’s all one big blur. What vendor was that again? What did I do with their business card? Avoid inevitable trade show “brain fog” by taking notes as you work your way through the show. Jot down the vendor name, item # and a quick description. This year at our Fall Showcase, we’re introducing a “Products I Love” worksheet for clients to track their favorite items.
When you exit the showroom and turn in your worksheet, you’re entered into a drawing for some fun door prizes. (Bonus!) We even offer an optional email copy so that you can follow up with your sales rep afterwards.
Tech Tip: If you’re at a big event and don’t want to keep up with pen and paper, use your smartphone camera to snap a picture of the product and the product label. Look for the tag that shows item #, color, description, price, etc. When you get home, you can use the photos to make a quick follow-up list.
- Use a tote bag or small utility cart for catalogs and samples. If you plan to collect lots of catalogs and event swag, you’ll need something to carry it all. Tote bags are great, and most shows will give you one at check-in. However, catalogs can get heavy quickly so you may want to bring a collapsible utility cart to lighten the load. An alternative? If the venue offers a bag check area, you can “check” your bag(s) throughout the day and pick them up before you leave.
- Ask about mailing catalogs. Some events offer free or reduced mailing services for people who don’t want to pack a bunch of bulky catalogs in their luggage. If you do plan to carry catalogs and such home with you, pack an extra duffel bag or leave room in your suitcase for the trip home. Prefer online shopping to printed catalogs? Collect business cards instead and visit the company’s website when you get home.
- Realize that you may not be able to see everything. That’s okay. Remember those objectives we talked about earlier? Keep those in mind as you decide where to spend your time.
Follow these simple tips and you’ll definitely have a more successful and productive trade show experience!
Want to get some practice? Join us for our semi-annual showcase coming up later this month. It’s 100% free. Click here for more information or to register online!