With the advent of the internet and videoconferencing, it was surmised by some skeptics that trade shows would soon become a thing of past. As time has gone by, the contrary seems to be occurring. Trade shows are as popular as ever, and in some cases are even growing! It shouldn’t really be that big of a surprise since there will never be a substitute for good old fashioned face-to-face contact. Given the surge of popularity, chances are high that if you haven’t been to a trade show, you may find yourself at one soon.
Many times, newcomers to trade shows are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things to do and either wind up paralyzed into inaction or overextended, trying to cram two weeks of activity into a weekend. In either one of those situations, you’re going to find that you’ve missed out on a ton of opportunities. To help ensure that you get the most out of your trade show experience, here are a few tips:
Understand That You Can’t Do Everything
Until you invent a portable cloning machine to carry around the show floor with you, the fact of the matter is that you’re not going to see all there is to see. The amount of booths, workshops, panels and personal networking opportunities is just too high. Instead, do some research before the show to determine how your time can be best spent.
Make a Game Plan and Stick To It
Once your research is done, construct a loose schedule around the people, booths and talks you’d most like to see. I say “loose” because, as with anything else, your schedule will more often than not fall apart around you. Booths may be overcrowded, workshops can get rescheduled, and people may not have time to meet with you. Have a plan B and a plan C so that a change to original plan doesn’t leave you wandering aimlessly around the show floor.
You’ll never find a better opportunity to network than a trade show. A phone call or an email to a potential business partner or client may be a nice gesture, but a face-to-face meeting will always be the best time to leave an impression. Make sure you’re prepared to discuss any topic that may come up, and don’t forget to listen far more than you speak.
Learn All You Can
This point cannot be stressed enough. Trade shows are the place where everyone congregates and your industry is put on display – use this to your advantage! Be sure to walk the show floor and keep an eye out for new technology or ideas that could help your business, and don’t be afraid to ask what people can do for you. Are your competitors at the show? Excellent! Sit down for a chat and try to discover what’s working for them, and don’t be afraid to share your stories as well. Healthy competition is the best motivator!
While trade shows can be great for making connections and meeting potential clients, it’s not often the right place to close the deal. Make sure that everyone you talk to leaves with your information so they can contact you once the show is over. Additionally, make sure you follow up with anyone who expressed interest in your business. It’s easy to become “just another face in the crowd” during the long hours of a trade show, but timely communication afterwards will put you ahead of the pack.
Have you been to a trade show or two? Share your favorite words of wisdom in the comments below.