Members of the Redstone team attended CSAE Ottawa-Gatineau’s Tête-à-Tête 2016 last week, a large industry trade show. These types of events provide several opportunities to network, and trade shows offer the unique opportunity of having all of your key suppliers in one place, at one time; as such, we thought it would be timely and relevant to delve into how we think you can make the most of a trade show experience.
Plan ahead. Hone in on your current and future needs. It’s nearly impossible to meet every exhibitor on a trade show floor, learn about their product or service, and develop worthwhile relationships. As such, focus on what your current needs are or what you may be looking for in 6 – 18 months. At Redstone, we always plan 2 – 3 years out. We like to get our hands on the exhibitor list and floor plan ahead of time, so that we can plot our route on the show floor and maximize the time we have.
Divide and conquer. If attending with a colleague, try splitting the trade show floor to ensure that you meet as many people as possible. Attending with a colleague in a different department or working with different organizations might make a division of key booths an easy split.
Two birds, one stone. If you’re traveling a long distance to attend the trade show, stretch your time and your dollar. If you have clients, suppliers or partners in that geographical area, make a point to meet with them while you’re there. Looking to break into this market? Look at the trade show agenda to find out the exhibit floor hours and try to make meaningful meetings with other people who may not be attending.
Bring a trade show ‘survival kit’. You’ll be making a first impression to many industry professionals, be doing lots of walking and standing, and will have several items of swag to collect. We recommend professional, yet comfortable, clothing, flat shoes and either a small purse or none at all. Many trade shows equip attendees with tote bags to collect all of that swag – no need to be lugging around two bags. Whatever you decide to wear, don’t forget your business cards and a bottle of water!
Engage with your VIP suppliers. Even if you already have a relationship with an exhibitor and are well-versed on their services (and they on your needs), use this time to stop by, see how they are doing, and continue to grow your business relationship. On the other hand, do so only when appropriate, ensuring that you’re not monopolizing their booth – be cognizant of the fact that they want to use their time to generate business leads just as much as you do.
Take note of unique ideas. Exhibitors are always looking for exciting ways to generate foot traffic to their booth. Take note of the new ideas that you see pop up at each trade show and start thinking about ways you can introduce these ideas, or elements of them, at your next client event.