Once you have your trade show ideas brainstormed and you know how to measure the return on investment for your trade show booth and other consumables, it’s time to go to an actual trade show. Depending on where you live, you’re probably asking yourself “Are there even trade shows near me? How do I find out?” To answer the first question: yes, yes there are. But how do you find out?
Well, that’s pretty easy, too. There are a number of different places you can go to find out about different trade shows in your area, especially if you live in the United States. One of the best places to start is The Tradeshow Network’s trade show calendar. This handy little application lets you sort through a listing of trade shows, conferences and other events across the globe. You can even narrow the calendar down by industry, city, state, country and even what month the show takes place in. So if the only month you have available to attend trade shows is July, simply set the “month” drop-down to July and let the trade show calendar take care of the rest.
Once you have the shows you want to attend marked down on your list, consider keeping up to date on news and other upcoming events in the trade show scene. Sites like the Trade Show News Network offer trade show vendors a way to augment their trade show calendar with news, blog posts, trade show reports and other research data. The trade show reports and research data are of particular importance: when it comes to deciding what trade shows you want to take your company and its products to, the first thing you should do is research.
Figuring Out Which Trade Shows To Go To
So you’ve parsed through a trade show calendar or a trade show listing like Absolute Exhibits’ “Top 100 USA Trade Shows” and found a couple different trade shows nearby. Now what?
This is where that research from earlier comes in: you need to figure out what it is that you’re selling that would make it advantageous for you to go to these trade shows. For example, if you’re selling carrying cases for various kinds of equipment, then you could go to trade shows for the music industry, the technology industry and dozens of others. Take a look at the items your company sells and how those items can be used across different platforms and markets.
Even if your items can’t necessarily be used natively by a given market or group, consider ancillary uses: if you’re a company that sells advertising materials, look for vendors or even whole trade show opportunities where you think those materials would be appreciated, even if the vendor or trade show caters to a market that’s as far from advertising as it’s possible to be.
Attending a Trade Show
Once you’ve figured what kind of trade shows you want to go to, it’s time to actually attend a show. However, if you don’t do any pre-show planning, it might turn your first trade show appearance from a hit to a miss. So what kinds of things should you do as part of your pre-show planning routine?
- Pre-register for the show to avoid any confusion.
- Have a goal. Figure out what you want to accomplish – who you want to visit, what you need to purchase, what events to attend and what new products or product lines you’d like to see.
- Know what your inventory needs are going to be. Be more efficient in your purchasing strategy by grouping your orders in order to take advantage of discounts or special offers.
- Set up appointments ahead of time. If there’s a vendor or a group of vendors you’d like to meet with, set up those appointments ahead of time – it’ll save you both the hassle of trying to organize a meeting while the show is going on.
- Figure out which of your employees would benefit the most from attending the trade show and bring them along. If you’re not sure which of your employees would benefit the most, you can still use this as an excellent opportunity to build up a stellar sales team to take to the show with you.
Once you get to the show itself, there are a couple tips you can take note of to make your trade show experience easier and more enjoyable for everyone.
- When you arrive, you’ll get a guide to all of the different booths and exhibits that are available at the show. Use this time to review the goal and strategy you put together as part of your pre-show routine, updating and revising as necessary.
- Have a pen and a notebook ready to take notes. Use the backs of business cards to jot down any information relevant to that person or company.
- Take a break after a few hours. This will give you time to refresh, have a snack, and get your mind back in the game.
- As things are winding down, try to leave a little early on the last day. This will help you avoid the last-day trade show traffic, and also the lines for cabs and buses as people attempt to get back to their hotels with everything they’ve picked up on the last day.
- Be social and enjoy yourself, but also take the time to set up meetings and attend any meetings you might have set up as part of your pre-show routine. Don’t forget about your existing connections, either.
When it comes to networking, there’s a whole other set of tips, tricks and best practices. Bring plenty of your own business cards, and make sure your employees are appropriately stocked, as well. As you find the time, go around and introduce yourself to the other vendors and exhibitors who are present – it’s a great way to start forging connections between yourself and the other vendors in your industry. Don’t forget to attend seminars or workshops when you have time between visiting booths and exhibits – they’re one of the whole reasons you’re here, after all.
After Attending the Trade Show: What Comes Next?
After you get done attending a trade show, there a couple things still yet to do:
- Identify if the goals and objectives you made earlier were met.: has the cost of attending the show had a positive effect on your business?
- Decide whether or not you’re attending a trade show next year.
- Figure out a plan of attack for next year – whether or not your goals were met, you need to figure out what you can tighten up and do better next year. If you’re not planning to attend a trade show, find other ways you can drum up equivalent business.
- Follow up on leads immediately. Whether they’re fellow vendors or simply people that have stopped by your booth, follow up with the people that talk to you as soon as you can. Too many companies make the mistake of waiting to follow up on a lead, only to find that they’ve moved on by the time that company tries to contact them.
Not only can leads provide you with new business, but also new opportunities, as well. They may mention friends, family or even other companies that might be interested in your services. Talk to them about trade shows they’ve been to, too: they may provide you with new opportunities to market your goods and services.
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