Exhibitors often have to reverse roles and find themselves on the other side of the aisle playing tradeshow attendee. According to a CEIR (Center for Exhibition Industry Research) study, 39% of attendees spend less than eight hours visiting a show. As with exhibiting, planning and preparation are essential to maximizing time on the trade show floor. The following 30 points will help simplify the process next time you find yourself playing visitor:
Before the Show:
1. Know what you want to achieve by visiting the show and if the company is sending you understand what your boss wants you to achieve by attending the show.
2. Develop a plan of which exhibitors you want to visit and then organize your list into two parts – “must see” and “want to see” companies.
3. Decide how much time you want to spend at the show and then at each booth. Allow extra time for browsing, distractions and waiting in lines.
4. Find out who else from your company is going to the show and develop a plan to maximize your visit, especially at large shows.
5. Know what information you need to have from each exhibitor. Research different vendors to find out how they differ and what is most important to you. Then plan intelligent questions to ask them.
6. Design a lead gathering form to research for specific products/services to make accurate comparisons.
7. Make appointments with exhibitors you really want to meet with.
8. Get map of where exhibitors located and prioritize your route.
9. Take plenty of business cards to avoid filling out forms.
10. Pack comfortable shoes and clothing to wear on the show floor. Walking shows is extremely tiring. Try insoles for extra comfort. Remember to leave room for things to bring back.
11. Take a light and comfortable “carry-all” for accumulated materials. Plastic bags are often uncomfortable as they cut into your hands.
12. Make travel and hotel reservations early to maximize on discounted rates.
13. Stay at a hotel closest to the convention site to save on traveling and to give you a place to rest, sort through information gathered, and refocus your energy.
14. Plan the seminars/workshops you want to attend. Split sessions with your colleagues to maximize data gathering.
15. Pre-register for the event and arrive 30 minutes before opening to avoid standing in long lines.
At the Show:
16. Revise your plan at the show. The show directory and schedule often changes several times before a show.
17. Collect information that is of interest to you or that might interest others in your company. Request literature and samples be mailed instead of having to carry them with you.
18. Obtain a map of the city and know how to get to the convention center.
19. Tell exhibitors you are on a tight time schedule to avoid casual chatter and get straight down to business.
20. Look for networking opportunities. Network with industry leaders. Get invited to exhibitors hospitality suites/ receptions. At workshops introduce yourself to people around you – hand out/collect business cards. Hook up with new contacts at mealtimes for added information
21. Skip overly crowded booths and plan to come at end of day when traffic is slower.
22. Check coats and bags so you don’t have to drag them around with you.
23. Carry a pad and pen to jot down important notes, or have small tape recorder for note taking.
24. Take a break after a few hours to refresh and get some fresh air. Air in convention halls is dry, stale and draining. Drink water instead of pop/beer regularly to avoid dehydration.
25. Write a trip report as you go along and summarize your notes every evening.
26 Be prepared to push for answers to questions exhibitors are not prepared to answer.
27. Avoid conversations with vendors you have no interest in.
28. Leave the show about 30 minutes before closing to avoid long lines for busses and cabs.
After the Show:
29. Plan how you are going to implement information gathered.
30. Be prepared to follow-up after the show for literature and samples requests.
Written by Susan A. Friedmann, CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, internationally recognized expert working with companies to increase their profitability at tradeshows. Author: “Riches in Niches: How to Make it BIG in a small Market” and “Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies.” www.thetradeshowcoach.com & www.richesinniches.com