So, you’ve booked your delegate badge, received all the pre-show marketing materials, reserved a hotel, and briefed you colleagues on any work that might need completing during your time away from the office.
Time to relax and enjoy a change of scene and a bit of a ‘jolly’ right?
Whilst some people may see a couple of days at a trade show as a bit of a perk away from the stresses and strains of the office, with a bit of thought and careful planning, the savvier delegates can make trade shows an essential part of their marketing strategy.
Here’s our guide as to how to make the most of your delegate experience:
Study the exhibitor guide
Whether you get a hard copy or print a copy out from the trade show website, make sure you study the exhibitor guide in advance of the show.
You won’t have time to get around all the stands and so be choosy. Very often the guide can be divided into ‘Exhibitor Zones’ grouped around certain topics. So why not immediately dismiss the zones you know you’re not interested in, and then fine tune the list of the stands you don’t want to miss.
Whilst looking at the list of exhibitors, see if any of them are your competitors. Then, make a note to visit their stand to see what they’re promoting and how many visitors they’re getting.
You might want to visit stands as part of a research exercise. For example, to look at new industry products and technologies.
Study the floor plan
If it’s your first time a major industry trade show, the sheer size and layout of the exhibition arena cane be quite overwhelming.
Make sure you plan you route around the venue. Do you want to start looking at stands as soon as you enter, or do you want to walk to the other side of the exhibition hall and gradually work your way back?
Note where any facilities such as toilets, bars and cafes are located.
Arrive in good time
Whatever time the doors open, try and get there at least half an hour in advance. This will avoid you getting stuck in any queues which might form. Remember, their may be security checks in place which will slow down the flow of people entering the venue.
Consider who else might be attending
In the run up to the event, try and find out who else from your industry will be attending.
There might be a key prospect you’ve been trying to get hold of on the phone for weeks, and you could easily meet up for a coffee at the event.
Or it might be a good opportunity for you to catch up with one of your most important and influential customers.
Why not write on your social media accounts that you’re going to the show. This will give others the opportunity to catch up with you.
As well as exhibition stands, a key part of most trade shows is a seminar programme – ranging from product launches to insightful analysis of market trends.
Like with the stands, there’s no way you’ll be able to visit them all, and so study the programme in advance a decide which ones will be of most interest to you – noting the time they start and whereabout they’re taking place.
If there’s a particularly popular seminar, with a key VIP or industry figure, make sure you get there early to secure your seat and avoid having to stand at the back and struggle to both hear and see.
Don’t be a pushy salesperson!
Research shows that a major gripe highlighted by exhibitors is being approached by people who haven’t gone to the trouble of booking a stand, but instead wander around the show actively pushing business cards into the hands of unsuspecting recipients.
By all means carry a small stock of business cards in your pocket, and if a genuine opportunity arises from a conversation, then hand them out. But don’t go actively looking for sales leads.
Ensure you keenly follow-up everything from the show.
If you managed to catch up with a prospect or a customer, drop them an email telling them how much you enjoyed seeing them and how you hope the show was a success for them.
You might want to do some more research into the new products you’ve seen at the show – learning how they could help your business. Or you might want to find out more about the speakers you listened to during the seminar programme.
Finally, if you have developed any sales leads from conversation you had at the event, make sure you follow them up whilst they’re fresh in your mind.