5 Simple Tips for a Productive Trade Show Experience

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I have been participating in trade shows for over twenty years. My trade show experience started with my first career as an inventor of novelty candy products. I traveled across the country, exhibiting at a variety of trade shows and focusing on marketing kids’ candy items.

Since my transition into commercial real estate in 2016, I have continued participating in trade shows. Even though trade shades come in all shapes and sizes, I have noticed commonalities.

This article aims to share my insights to help you get the most out of any trade show you exhibit at or attend. Below are five concepts to keep in mind.

1. Travel

I always recommend staying at a hotel within walking distance of the conference. This way, you do not have to be hassled in the morning to drive to the conference or find other transportation. Most of the time, the conference organizer arranges for the people participating to get rooms at a discounted rate. I recommend booking your hotel as soon as this information is distributed. Often, the hotels near the conference location get booked first.

If you need to fly to the conference, I recommend booking as soon as possible. This will assure you the best flight. Whenever possible, I recommend getting a direct flight. Even if you have to go to an airport that is a further drive from your home, it is well worth it. You will not have to worry about missing any plan changes if you have a direct flight.

I always get a flight that allows me to arrive early and depart late. This way, there is no rush to get to and from the conference. Since conferences can be expensive, I believe it is important to come early and stay late to get your money‘s worth.

Related: 7 Trade Show Tips for New Businesses

2. Networking

Remember always to bring a large number of business cards. Many people these days are opting for an electronic business card. This is a personal choice, but I still enjoy old-fashioned business cards. The problem I find with electronic business cards is that once you have the person on your phone, they get cluttered with all your other contacts.

Following up with the people you met at the conference can be daunting. Having the physical business cards of the people you interacted with is still the best, in my opinion. If you interact with someone with an electronic card, when you scan it and get their info into your phone, you can always take a snapshot. At least this way, you will be able to go back to your photos and find their contact information.

Related: 7 Networking Groups Every Small Business Owner Should Join

3. Follow up

Speaking of taking snapshots, I enjoy taking photos of cards throughout the conference. This way, if you lose a card, you will have a backup on your phone.

Another follow-up tip I utilize is creating a follow-up spreadsheet after the conference. The spreadsheet has all the tasks I said I would follow up on. After I follow up, I adjust the spreadsheet to show that the task has been completed. These spreadsheets keep me accountable for my follow-ups. Additionally, I just love crossing to-do items off my to-do list.

Related: 4 Insane Truths About Failing to Follow-up

4. Notebook

A small notebook and several pens in your conference bag are extremely critical. Throughout the conference, you will interact with many; unless you write down your interactions, you will not remember. I recommend having several pens handy in case some stop working or you give pens away. Having pens with your contact information to hand out is always nice.

This notebook should be utilized to keep track of your notes throughout the conference and who you have spoken to. At a recent conference, my managing broker informed me in advance that he would want to know the number of people I interacted with after the conference. This prompted me to number the people I chatted with, and I kept track of this number in my notebook. It ended up being a nice conversation piece informing the party what number they were. Also, it made my follow-up much easier.

Related: I Started My Business with $1,000 — It’s Now Worth Billions and Serves Over 163 Million People. These 7 Principles Were My Secrets to Success.

5. Snacks

Be prepared with snacks when you get to a conference. I always plan and bring snack-sized items with me to my suitcase. As for small water bottles, I usually stop at a market or convenience store when I reach my destination. Food and water at conferences can be difficult to come by and also pricey. If you prepare in advance by stocking up your conference bag with snacks and water, you will have a more productive trade show experience.

Many of the items above are obvious, but I often see people who are not prepared at trade shows. By making your travel plans ahead of time, being prepared to network, having a follow-up plan and stocking your conference bag with a notebook, pens and snacks, you will make the most of any trade show.

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