Going to a tradeshow is always fun and exciting. From the equipment on display to the informative seminars, there’s always so much to do and see. And when else are you going to be in a giant room full of people and equipment related to the industry you love? Pretty much never. That’s why it’s so important to make the most of every show you attend.
Start planning early
It’s important to start thinking about what tradeshows you want to go to early in the year. This way, you can get them on your calendar and start planning early. If you’ve been in the industry a while, you probably have an idea of what shows are worth your while, but if you’re a bit newer, snoop around the popular trade publications, websites, and even Facebook. You’ll be able to see what the biggest shows are fairly quickly.
Once you have a tradeshow or two you know you’ll be able to attend, make sure to book flights, hotels, and rental cars early. The show you’re going to might be a big draw for the town and prices will start to skyrocket the closer you get to show time.
Keep an eye on the website
Most shows will have a dedicated website or at least a social media page where you can look for show updates. You’ll find things like:
- Event schedules
- Registration information
- Presenter information
- Exhibitor lists and booth maps
- Discounts and coupons for the show and nearby attractions
Check the site every few weeks leading up to the show to see if there are any important updates.
Set a few goals
Even though tradeshows can be a ton of fun, it’s important to remember that you’re there for your business and to find ways to improve it. With all the great people and exhibitors around, it shouldn't be too hard to find some useful information or equipment. To help you stay focused, set two or three goals for the show. They can revolve around networking, acquiring more equipment, or learning new skills. Having a few set goals to accomplish will keep you focused and on your way to making this trip worthwhile for your business.
Set a budget
This step is often overlooked, but is actually one of the most important. Remember, you’re going to the show to help your business, not bankrupt it. Figure out how much you can afford to spend on the flight, hotel, and even food.
One insider trick is to bring a water bottle with you. A bottle of water at the show can run you upwards of $6. If the venue won’t let you bring a bottle into the show, look around for a booth giving them out. You can use the drinking fountain or bathroom sink to fill it up.
If you’re attending the show with the intent to shop for new equipment, consider getting pre-approved for equipment financing. With a pre-approval, you’ll know exactly what’s in your budget, and it even gives you some negotiating power with vendors. If you don’t want to get pre-approved before the show, still make sure to stop by a financing booth to learn about how easy the process is. In some cases, you might be able to get approved for financing that day!
Make a list
This step is crucial for having a successful show. Before the show, get your hands on an exhibitor list and a map of the show. Decide what exhibits you have to see and create a game plan. Once you get to the show and see how crazy it all can be, you’ll be happy you have a map and plan already in your head. This will ensure that you get to see as much as possible. That being said, don’t be afraid to diverge from the list. If something catches your eye, check it out!
From the minute you step onto the tradeshow floor to the minute you walk out the door, you'll be bombarded by giveaways and marketing materials. You’ll soon find your hands full, and you’ll have lost that one business card you actually wanted. Take advantage of all the free stuff by grabbing a tote bag. You’ll be able to toss all your other goodies in it.
It’s also a good idea to bring a folder or manila envelope along. Use it to hold all the papers you need to keep nearby (registration information, business cards, financing pre-approvals, etc.). They’ll be easier to find and go through if they’re neatly tucked into one place.
Enjoy the experience
Try not to get too caught up in seeing all the booths and learning everything; you’ll quickly be overwhelmed. Remember to have some fun, meet new people, and expand your network of industry professionals. If you’re coming from out of town, set aside a few hours to see the sights and enjoy the local attractions.
Follow these tricks and you’re sure to have a successful and fun show!