The Delegate’s Guide To Nailing Trade Shows

Are Trade Shows Worth Your Time?

Trade shows provide great opportunities to network – you just need to know how to make the most of them. Here are our top ten tips for making the most out of attending any exhibition.

BEFORE THE SHOW

1. Do your research

Before booking any shows, check who’s going and make sure the exhibition meets your specific goals. For example, if you’re looking for a new supplier, make sure a few providers of that type are exhibiting. Exhibitors will often advertise shows they are attending, because they want visitors to come and see them there. Check the show website as well as industry specific websites and magazines for show details and lists of exhibitors.

2. Have a plan

Consider why you’re going and identify your “must see” exhibitors and seminars. If you have a floor plan, mark the “must see” stands. That way you have a visual guide to the areas of the show you don’t want to miss. This is particularly important if it’s a very large show and there’s a likelihood that you won’t get round everything. This will help you plan out your day and form a rough schedule, meaning each minute is well used.

3. Be prepared

Make a list of your requirements, so that you can easily explain your needs to any supplier. Most exhibitors have some kind of special offers, some of which are only available on the day of the show. If you know exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll be in a better position to take advantage of these offers. Equally, do your research and have a note of average prices for the products or services you’re looking to source. Something may sound like a great deal on the show floor but turn out to be quite expensive compared to market rates.

4. Sort out your business cards

Make sure your business cards are up to date and that you have plenty of them. Imagine someone you met at the show looking at your card afterwards. Does your card make it easy for them to remember you? What impression are you leaving them with?

5. Schedule appointments

Contact exhibitors and fellow attendees in advance to schedule meetings. There is usually somewhere that you can sit and chat with a coffee, and booking an appointment means you won’t visit the stand several times only to find they’re too busy to speak to you!

6. Find a hotel near the exhibition

Exhibition days are exhausting, so find accommodation within walking distance. It might cost more, but at the end of a long day you’ll thank yourself for the short commute. It also means you don’t need to carry everything with you. There’s the added potential benefit of bumping into other attendees in the hotel and getting some free impromptu networking time!

7. Prepare your elevator pitch

People running a stand probably have a very busy schedule, and they’re going to meet a lot of people over the course of the day. Can you make your meeting with them memorable? Find a way to sum up your business in 30 seconds, concisely explaining what your company does, in a way that leaves a lasting impression.

AT THE SHOW

8. Stay in your “comfort zone”

Well, your physical comfort zone, at least! Some exhibition halls are vast and you’re probably going to do an awful lot of walking. A flight case with wheels or a shoulder bag is going to be much easier to handle than a hand held briefcase or bag (remember it’s likely you’ll pick up leaflets, brochures, business cards and maybe even some promotional freebies along the way!), and comfortable shoes are a must. Take a bottle of water with you, too, because queues are often long and refreshments on the expensive side.

9. Get out of your comfort zone!

The more people you talk to, the more you’ll get out of a trade show. Don’t be afraid to initiate conversations, even if you’re not naturally chatty – remember, exhibitors are there specifically to do business. They want to talk to you! Make sure you listen as much as you talk and that you take notes after which you can review on your return. Also, make sure you leave gaps in your schedule for spontaneous meetings with interesting people you bump into. Not everyone you want to meet will have gone to the expense of having a stand and you may find opportunities to talk to people you really want to meet but who you didn’t even know were attending.

10. Be open to invitations

…particularly evening invitations. Many exhibitors have events and parties after hours, and these offer you some fantastic networking opportunities in a usually much more relaxed setting.

AFTER THE SHOW

11. Follow up!

Get on LinkedIn and connect with everyone whose business card you collected. Send them a personal message with your connection request – if you do this immediately after the show they are far more likely to remember you than if you wait a few weeks. Equally, several weeks later you may have forgotten who’s who. Strike while the iron is hot!

Do you have any tips of your own to share? Let us know on Twitter or LinkedIn using the hashtag #TradeShowTips!