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How to Get More Out of Attending Trade Shows

Vendor trade shows are great for networking and learning about your industry. They pop up only a few times a year, so when the right… continue below

How to Get More Out of Attending Trade Shows

Vendor trade shows are great for networking and learning about your industry. They pop up only a few times a year, so when the right one comes along you should pounce at the opportunity. By postponing your registration, you risk the event filling up. For those requiring payment, you may also miss early-bird specials and discounts. You’ll feel these consequences most if you plan on bringing a few employees. It could mean a greater expense to your business and fewer spots available to your team.

Tag-teaming a vendor trade show presents various advantages. For one, your group can divide and conquer; a party can cover more ground and glean more information. Likewise, you can access multiple perspectives. Vendor trade shows target various industry subsets, so bringing talent relevant to each makes the event more worthwhile. For example, a show for IT professionals may touch upon different services and the sales/support processes for each.

Know Why You’ve Chosen to Register for the Event

Once you’ve secured a spot(s) at the event, you should ask yourself what you intend to gain. For instance, Skyline Exhibits and EXPO magazine surveyed frequent trade show attendees and found that 88 percent use these events for product sourcing and buying. Similarly, 91 percent claim they are essential for comparing products.

Vendor shows permit you to survey the market for alternative vendors more effectively than online. A website does not let you trial the hardware or get a genuine feel for its material design. Professional photography can dress up practically anything, so there’s always a hesitation when buying for the first time. Contrarily, at a trade show, vendors showcase their products, eliminating the guesswork from the selection. At each booth, you can interact with new products and ask whatever comes to mind.

Familiarize Yourself with the Landscape

Every trade show uses a different floor configuration. Without a guide, the venue might feel like a labyrinth. Although you have all day to find vendors, you’ll save yourself time and confusion if you pick up a map. More importantly, you should check the itinerary. Trade shows host special presentations and workshops throughout the day; you don’t want to miss one you came to see.

To maximize your time, skip over irrelevant vendors. There will be booths with less (or nothing) to offer. For example, if your IT business specializes in networking, then you can pass by vendors producing equipment for applications outside this scope. However, all vendor presentations are valuable because they can contextualize your sector. Although your business may not buy into certain technologies, you can learn how they impact your own solutions and customers.

Avoiding packed booths is also a good strategy, even when the crowd envelops a vendor of interest. The fewer people at the booth the more attention your needs and questions will receive. This is another reason for grabbing a map: you can locate nearby areas to check out as you wait for the crowds to wane.

Talk to Fellow Attendees and Vendors Alike

Broaden your social agenda to more than booth representatives. Interact with presenters and fellow attendees whenever possible. Even if the people around you qualify as competitors, you can still brainstorm and compare notes with them. Doing so helps both of you discover interesting things about the products. Likewise, those who already own product can shed light on aspects not talked about at the event.

Outside of the trade show, some of the people you meet can develop into profitable partnerships. There will be professionals around who sell complementary services that can expand your referral network. Thus, always bring business cards and other marketing collateral so that you can connect and follow-up with contacts.

One area great for mingling is the lunch/dinner table. Everyone needs a break after walking the floor and the eating area is a favourite spot to kick back. The only thing better than great food is good conversation, so indulge in both whenever you can.

Bring Information Back to Your Employees and Customers

As previously mentioned, inviting co-workers to trade shows can help you derive more value from the event. That said, it’s unlikely for your whole team to attend. Therefore, it falls on you to collect the information and relay it to those at the office. After all, information means little unless you share and act upon it.

It’s also important to disseminate the information to your customers. Whether through your sales, marketing or support channels, you should exercise your knowledge to benefit the customer experience. In fact, you should pass along the resources acquired at the event. For example, scanning a brochure or forwarding a relevant newsletter. Try to become the mediator for the vendors your brand engages.

Recommended read: Why Collect Customer Feedback on Product Quality (and How)

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