Getting the most from a tradeshow experience: The attendee’s perspective
Most of the time, we like approaching the trade show space from the perspective of the exhibitor or trade show host. Let’s face it, though, we’re not all pros when it comes to attending these events. For that reason, we’ve compiled the top tips for trade show newbies. Take note and pass along to promote a great attendee experience…Before the show

  • Save time and money by pre-registering. Most trade shows and conferences knock a percentage of the cost—which often results in hundreds of dollars—off the cost of registration for early birds, so be prepared. Research and budget for trade shows early on in the fiscal year.
  • Once a trade show has been identified that stands to connect you with prospects, learn new skills or interact with vendors, outline a plan for your attendance. Cleary establish what it is you’re hoping to accomplish, which vendors you’re looking to visit, what items you need to purchase, what seminars to attend and what thought leaders you’d like to meet or connections you’d like to make. Going in with a plan will help you stay focused and make the most of your time.

Where to stay

  • Before booking a hotel, check to see if the trade show organizers have reserved a block of rooms at a discounted rate at any area hotels. While these usually are the best bet—and often times these hotels are in very close vicinity, if not connected to the trade show venue—it never hurts to shop around, especially if attending a trade show on a budget.
  • As with registration, it often pays to make reservations for transportation and lodging early. While discounts won’t likely be offered for early birds here, the payoff is ensuring that you end up in the hotel of your choice with a plan of action when it comes to travel.
  • If you don’t or can’t book a hotel within walking distance of a trade show, be sure to include the cost of daily travel for cabs, subways, buses or rental cars into your trade show budget. Plan on bringing maps or printing out driving or walking directions ahead of time to cut back on the hassle factor.

What to wear

  • Pack comfortable shoes and plan to bring clothing that aligns with the dress code—and yes, many trade shows have these. Check their website for details and don’t forget attire for special evening events, swimwear for free time at the pool or outerwear to prepare for local weather fluctuations.
  • Carry-on suitcases are a breeze when traveling on short trips. Pack only the essentials; follow TSA guidelines regarding liquids and carry-on items and be sure to allow enough room in your suitcase for bringing back more than you take. This includes literature, freebies and product samples.
  • Don’t forget to wear your trade show badge at all times! Not only will it help staff identify you, but it can be key in opening the door to networking with other attendees and trade show presenters. Bonus: Nab a badge that doubles as a wallet. or a business card holder to save space and free hands

At the show

  • An updated show guide will probably be provided when you arrive. Take some time to get to know it, orientate yourself with important locations, like cafeterias and restaurants, and revise your plan if necessary. Keep this guide, maps and other important information in a handy central location, like a logo’d document holder, for easy reference throughout the trade show and a subtle reminder of your company’s brand.
  • Keep a pen and a notebook handy to jot quick notes. Bring a camera to document products and demonstrations that pique your interest on the trade show floor.
  • Bring plenty of your own business cards and don’t be skimpy when it comes time to hand them out. Introduce yourself to others, take a genuine interest in connections and learn what you can from booth presenters. This is the meat of your experience!

After the show
Identify if your objectives were met and share what you learned with coworkers. Take time to follow-up with any connections you made at the show and, over time, evaluate whether or not the cost of attending was returned in prospects, sales or relationships. This will help guide your next trade show experience.

For those new to the trade show world, we hope you enjoy it. It’s a fun place to be, filled with opportunities to learn, network and build business. For those seasoned trade show attendees and exhibitors, keep these tips in mind when you run into newbies. They’ll appreciate your candor and your understanding won’t soon be forgotten.

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