Most of us dread trade-show trips. Little sleep, large blisters and mountains of product merging together into one enormous jewelry overload. We go home exhausted, discombobulated and overwhelmed by the information, pricing, and work reviews that await. This year though, turn a grueling trade workout into a 72 hour marathon of success. May’s Top Ten Tips takes you in and out of an exhibition with solutions and ideas that’ll make your trade show soiree an event to be repeated.
Me-time deals: Before you leave for any trade show, check out the local specials on groupon.com, livingsocial.com and other deal sites. A quick browse of offers for Las Vegas at the time of writing brought up an evening with a Ferrari for $99, half-price meals at a Treasure Island restaurant, along with big savings at a variety of spas and other tempting treats. A great way to cut down on expenses and enjoy some well-deserved ‘me’ time
Design a lead gathering form: Use this form to research specific products/services and make accurate comparisons. Know what information you need to have from each exhibitor. Visit an array of vendors to find out how they differ and what is most important to you in the products and services they provide.
Develop an exhibitors ranking list: Each day note who you want to visit and then organize your list into two parts – “must see/pre-arranged meetings” – “want to see” companies and “worth walking by if possible”.
Load up a tote bag: Fill it with Band-Aids, water, snacks, pen and pad and of course Motrin or Tylenol. Before you leave the hotel in the morning, stop by the hotel mini-market and make sure you have a selection of cereal bars, trail mix, soda/water and fruit in the bag- otherwise it’s munching M&Ms at an exhibitor’s booth…is that what we really want? By the end of the day, the food will be gone and the bag will provide much needed additional haulage for the accumulated materials that you’ll pick up during the day such as catalogs, look books and business cards.
Outside the aisles: Make time to attend relevant events that are running during the show. Speeches by important industry figures, workshops, seminars and panel discussions can be informative and attract many of the key players in a sector. These events are ideal environments for networking. Introduce yourself – everyone is wearing a badge and they are there to talk business. By taking the initiative, you can promote yourself and your business while making valuable contacts.
After each appointment: Categorize each meeting into some sort of urgency list – for example, hot, warm and cold. In this way when the post-show follow-up is underway at the office, you and your team will all be on the same page. It’s not just about the price and product – keep a note on which exhibitors seem to really want your business.
Be open to ideas: One of the great assets of trade shows is that you come face to face with concepts and ideas which you probably have never considered as options or have dismissed out of hand for one reason or another. In some cases when you are looking for innovation or solutions, it’s the idea that you where prejudiced against or haven’t fully considered that could offer the best solution. So take a good look around and consider all possibilities. Sometimes a previous idea presented in a new light can be the one that works.
Don’t just focus on the companies you came to see or know: You will be surprised by the number of totally different types of companies offering similar products and services. It is worth considering start ups and lesser known companies who have the drive and enthusiasm to win your business and keep it. If you do your homework, you might just get in on the ground floor of the next biggest trend.
Don’t waste the information gathered at the show: We dare anyone to admit they haven’t returned from an exhibition with a bag full of brochures and a pocket full of business cards which never see the light of day again. Don’t waste these snippets of information – file them or share them with your colleagues. If you don’t need the contact or information you’ve gathered, you probably know someone within your organization that does. After all, you wouldn’t have picked up the information unless it held at least some interest for you.
Last but not least: Enjoy. If you’re there – it means business ain’t all that bad – If you’re buying – so are your customers. Happy Trade Show Trails!