By Steve Angell and Marco Marino
Trade shows, expos and industry conferences are a big investment of your time and resources. Getting a good return on that investment requires some preparation beforehand as well as some strategic thinking during the event itself.
It can be difficult to know exactly how to best prepare for these events before you go, especially if you don’t have much experience. Luckily, ULG's resident trade show veterans, Managing Director of Corporate Services Steve Angell and Executive Business Development Manager Marco Marino, have six tips and pieces of advice to help you get the most out of every trade show you attend.
Make your hotel reservations well in advance
Your days while you’re attending a trade show are long and packed with events and activities. Because of this, it’s important that getting to and from your hotel room everyday doesn’t take up too much of your time and energy. Getting a conveniently located room will be a big advantage throughout your stay.
Most conferences have special hotel deals and blocks of rooms for attendees, but these spots always fill up fast. To get the best deal in the ideal location, plan ahead. Make your lodging reservations as soon as you can, so you don’t have to commute – or be the person continually explaining why you’re staying five miles away.
Craft your elevator speech
Before you get to the trade show floor, prepare a brief but informative description of what your company does and your role within it. “So what do you do?” is the unofficial slogan of every trade show – you absolutely don’t want to find yourself speechless when asked.
Trade shows are a perfect opportunity to learn more about your industry and forge new connections. Make sure you’re fully prepared.
Don't forget your business cards.
In the fast-paced, often hectic atmosphere at trade shows, having your name and contact information ready to go will make everything easier. Make sure you have a healthy amount of business cards on your person at all times at trade shows.
On top of all the great business connections you’ll be making, vendors will be hosting giveaways that often require the deposit of a card. Forgetting your card means risking the loss of some great new connections – and potential prizes!
Do your research
Prior to your arrival, find out how many people are attending the trade show, who the vendors are, and get your hands on a map of the trade show floor. Figure out who you want to meet and put together a schedule of must-sees. Use the map to plan your route so you can efficiently make your way through the floor.
If you can, set up a few meetings in advance with key contacts so you and your company don’t get lost in the shuffle.
Be an active participant
Be a fully engaged and active participant. Attend seminars and presentations and ask questions. Make time to meet the speakers. And be sure to attend one or two outside events – they’ll get you out of the hotel so you can experience the city you’re visiting, and they’re a great way to network with colleagues and make new friends.
Trade shows are most fulfilling when you show up ready to make the most of both the professional opportunities presented, as well as the social events. The last thing you want to do is spend all your time working and forget to enjoy yourself or, conversely, spend too much time in vacation-mode and have to head back to the office with nothing but a bag full of swag.
Trade shows are most fulfilling when you show up ready to make the most of both the professional opportunities presented, as well as the social events.
Have an open mind at every trade show
The whole point of a trade show or conference is to put yourself out there and meet new people. Be ready to talk to people, to introduce yourself, and to be a representative for your company and industry.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or exhausted by trade shows, especially large or long ones. But to get the most out of the experience, it’s important to remain energetic and open to the experiences and people around you. When you go in ready for anything, you’d be surprised by how many exciting new things you can learn, people you’ll meet, and ideas you’ll have. Putting your best self out there will always pay off in a big way.