You’re Doing It All Wrong – Getting The Most From Trade Shows And Exhibitions
Ryan looks at how you can get the most from the next trade exhibition you attend.
You’ve queued with excited anticipation.
Your badge has been scanned and you’re ready to go; like some sort of Olympic sprinter waiting for the starter’s pistol.
The doors are open and it’s a mad dash for samples, glossy brochures and maybe even a glass of fizz. Or two.
It’s bedlam as you’re swept up in the crowds and end up following the person in front of you, despite not really knowing where they are headed. The pack takes its own course, stopping only for a gongonzola, pear and walnut sandwich. Or sourdough, thank you very much.
Then it’s more avoiding of eye contact with the exhibitors and you take the safe option of “just some information, please”, before being shephered out again and into the nearest bar for some well needed refreshment.
We’ve all been there. Surely there’s a better way?
Mercifully, there is.
Exhibitions and trade shows are key for any discerning business owner, future industry star (or student, as they are colloquially termed) or indeed anyone who wants to get ahead in their chosen trade.
They are where contacts and friendships are made, where you can learn about what’s new to ensure you’re one step ahead and where the sector leaders and superstars hang out.
You simply must attend them.
However if you do them wrong then they can be a drag. Moreover they can be an expensive drag too, if you’ve taken a day off and had to pay for travel and board.
So here are my top 7 lesser known tips to get the most from your next exhibition visit.
1. Work out what you want to achieve way before you leave home.
What’s the purpose of your visit? Are you looking to invest in new equipment? New products? Hoping to make some contacts? Just going for the freebies?
Whatever it is, have a clear picture of this in you mind beforehand.
Focus on your objective and you’re far more likely to come away at the end knowing the trip has been worthwhile.
2. Work out your dream list.
Since you now know what you want to achieve from your visit, identify people and companies who you’d like to visit when you arrive.
Use the handy map which the organisers will no doubt send you ahead of time.
Read the exhibitor list, get familiar with what everyone does and see what catches your eye.
3. Work out the best route to see everyone.
Okay, so you have your dream list and you know where they are all going to be.
Simply join the dots and hey presto! Your optimum route around the show magically appears in front of you.
The shows get busy and can be vast. Random wandering won’t help you achieve your objectives.
4. Make contact with the people you plan to see.
Really interested in that new machine on stand D44?
Make contact with them ahead of the show. Get a demo booked in for a given time.
You can bet that you’ll have more meaningful contact with people if they know who you are, what you’re after and what time you’ll be there.
Let them serve you better. Heck, some companies will practically roll out the red carpet for you.
5. Go against the crowds.
People are sheep and generally follow others.
If everyone is walking in and turning right, then go left.
You’ll find it easier to speak with people when stands are quiet.
You could also consider heading to the farthest away corner first, before others get there.
Like that mad dash straight to the best ride at Alton Towers.
6. Go through the literature straight after the show and work out who you want to see again
So you’ve made it out alive and with a heavy bag of literature.
If you’re not careful that same bag of brochures will still be full and equally overflowing and untouched six months later.
Go for a debrief and go through all the brochures again, picking out those you’re keen to follow up with.
It’ll be less overwhelming to have three really good people to speak with than twenty whom you’re not entirely sure what they do.
7. The power of the follow up
Don’t forget to take action on what you’ve learned and speak with those you made a connection with.
Got more questions or want to arrange a meeting? Pick up the phone and make it happen.
Bonus tip. If you must bring a suitcase then please look where you’re going.
Seriously. You’re not at Heathrow, darling.