AT will be running a feature by industry expert D. Roger Maves on “Getting the Most Out of a Trade Show” in our next print issue. As part of that is preparing in advance of the show, we thought we’d tease the story with this short punch list here…
Here’s a few tips for preshow preparation:
1. Stay at the hotel that is hosting the event. If the show is in a conference center and there is no hotel then find out what hotels the event coordinators are recommending. It’s best to stay at a hotel that other people attending the show are staying at – you never know who you might bump into. You’ll find exhibitors and attendees winding down in the lounge at day’s end – what better time to meet people then when they are relaxing. Yes, it might be more expensive than other hotels you are considering but it will be well worth it.
2. Register for the show in advance to get the best pricing. Many times, there will be early bird pricing and you can save some money if you register early.
3. Checkout the mass transit, taxi services and shuttles available so that you know how you will get from the hotel to the conference center in the least amount of time and for the least amount of money.
4. Decide in advance who you want to see and prioritize your list. Usually the show will publish the exhibitors and speakers online in advance so you can work from that information. Research the appropriate people that you want to meet with and record all their names and any additional information you want to have handy.
5. If there are specific people you want to meet with then call them up in advance and try to set an appointment with them. Doing this will save you time and assure you’ll get to see the most important people on your list.
6. Get a map and directory of the show so you can identify and mark where your appointments are. Plan to visit booths around your appointment both before and after your meeting. If there are two of you you’ll need two separate maps. Walking trade shows can be exhausting so keep your steps to a minimum.
7. Make an hour by hour schedule of who you want to see and when. You can do this in a simple spreadsheet. Don’t forget to include keynote speaking sessions and seminars you want to attend.
8. Design a form to gather information from leads. Bring a stapler to staple business cards to the forms so you don’t waste time duplicating the information from the cards on the forms. If there are questions you want to make sure you ask every lead be sure to include them on the form.
9. Bring plenty of business cards – this is the one thing you don’t want to run out of.
10. Bring plenty of pens – you’ll lose them and they are great to give out to others who need one.
11. Bring three to four large 9x 12 envelopes or pocket file folders – you can use these to organize the information you collect.
12. Bring a comfortable shoulder bag that you can use to hold your materials (water bottle, forms, stapler, pens, business cards, pad of paper, sticky notes, recorder, etc.). Make sure it has two compartments one for your stuff and another for the forms you fill out and business cards and brochures you collect. Backpacks don’t work out too well because you’re always having to take them off and put them back on which is inconvenient and ends up wasting time. Pack it light and empty it at the end of the day of all that you have collected. You’ll be surprised at how heavy that bag gets after lugging it around for several days.
13. Comfortable shoes are a must. You’ll be walking on cement floors for most of the time and that takes its toll on your feet. Consider adding some padded insoles for extra comfort.
14. Lastly, go to the bank get some small bills for tipping. Check to see if they have any two dollar bills. They’re lots of fun to give out and you end up carrying half the amount of bills you would otherwise.