Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Trade shows are very common in the channel, but can also be difficult to attend. You have to take the time away from your office, or send employees, produce marketing materials, prepare your pitches, and fork over the cash to reserve your space. With all this effort, it’s important to make sure you get everything out of this experience that you can, since these events can be crucial to your business. Here are three quick tips to maximize your time at a trade show to help ensure you get your time and moneys worth.
Get the most out of educational sessions
Trade shows are very sophisticated endeavors compared to just a few years ago. Many shows now boast unique websites and apps that are created just for the show. Once you register for a show you usually get access to an agenda either through an email or the show’s website. Take some time to read the agenda of the show thoroughly to identify the sessions that you want to attend. It also helps to have backup sessions identified just in case one you’re interested in gets cancelled. For the ones you decide to attend, make sure you’re prepared to take notes during the session. However, these notes don’t need to be like notes you took in school – take note of the presenter’s name, title, company and the name of the session. Take as many notes on the presenters as you do on the topic they’re discussing. This can be invaluable weeks or months later if you find yourself needing an expert on that topic.
Find out which of your partners are planning to attend the show and specifically which sessions they are going to as well. This is not just limited to your customers, but to your hardware and software suppliers as well. Be sure that you’re aware of everyone you’d like to network with throughout the events of the show. Make a list of upcoming initiatives or growth areas for your company and ask partners that can assist in those areas first.
Get the most out of the show floor
Similar to the agenda, you should easily be able to access a floor plan of the trade show floor prior to the event. Print it out and mark the booths you want to make sure you visit. This is another good opportunity to reach out to your partners and find out if they will be in attendance, and in what capacity. Will they be attending as well, or exhibiting on the floor? What products or solutions will they be exhibiting? If you have specific hardware or software needs, make sure to identify those ahead of time so you can target those booths that are most likely to have a solution for you before you wander around to simply see the sights at the show.
A commonly overlooked issue when visiting booths on the show floor is assuming that all the reps you expect to be there will be there and available. All too often customers will go to a supplier’s booth because they heard a certain person from the supplier will be there, but that person may be unavailable. Instead of wasting your time hanging around until that person is free, reach out ahead of the show and set a time to meet at the booth. Most booths will have a chairs in them at the bigger shows.
Get the most out of networking opportunities
Once more, brush up on the agenda prior to the show. The show will usually have one or two receptions that it hosts and is open to all attendees. These are great opportunities to get face time with both current and potential partners. In addition to the open receptions that the show or other vendors might be sponsoring, there are almost always closed receptions as well.
When you are speaking to your customers and suppliers, try to casually find out if they have evening plans. If they received an invitation to an event that you didn’t, you might be able to snag yourself an invite or attend as your partner’s guest. What would be even better is if you have an invite that they do not, and you can get them access to something that they otherwise would not be able to attend. You get to be the hero and get solid networking time as well.
Make sure that you always have business cards with you for the sessions, trade floor, networking events and just walking around the conference center. You never know when you will meet someone and having a business card ready saves the headache of scrambling to find paper or if your cell phone is in the room or not charged.
Co-contributor: Shane Hutton