The spring thaw is well underway, and that means tradeshow season is in full swing. It is an exciting time and also a time when I start feeling like I am precariously scooting along the narrowing ledge of my physical and mental limits as the season marches forward. For this reason, I have become far more intentional and strategic about how I use my time during the Spring and early Summer tradeshows. With age (hopefully) comes wisdom and I thought I might share some things I’ve learned along the way to make this time of year more focused, effective and less harrowing. I am speaking mostly to attendees here, but exhibitors might pick up a trick or two as well!
- Have clear objectives when attending a tradeshow.
A tradeshow, by nature, is designed to be a time saver. It is an opportunity to see many companies and products, expand learning, and build relationships--all in the context of one large venue. However, if you walk in the door and start aimlessly walking the aisles, it can be a huge time waster. Don’t get me wrong, I still walk the aisles, but I also make advance appointments to see key people or companies. I also make a list of booths I want to visit by aisle, company name and booth number. Many shows have a tradeshow planner feature on their websites that is usually found on the floor plan page. This is a great tool that will help you to be more focused and not get drawn too far off the track by all the sights and sounds of a good show.
- Take short breaks.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to get sensory overload in these places! I find it helpful to take short breaks, get off the show floor and grab a drink or snack when I need it. This gives me a chance to also check my email and return phone calls.
- Wear comfortable shoes
I know this seems obvious, especially to men. However, most of us women like cute shoes with high heals. Been there done that! Don’t EVER wear new shoes to a trade show. Wear comfy well-worn shoes with low or no heals, and put one of those cushions inside if you can. Most convention center floors are solid concrete and wreak havoc on your feet and back. Ladies, feel free to slip your shoes off on your breaks or during lunch, too!
- Drink Water
Go ahead, enjoy your soda or whatever, but get some water down between soft drinks. It is easy to get caught up in conversation and forget to drink anything! This ends up in headaches, loss of energy, bad breath and just feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck by day’s end. I like to bring in a couple of water bottles with me, so I don’t have to pay $5.00 for water at the concessions. Some companies keep water bottles for their booth guests as well. Stay away from alcohol during the day. It makes you tired and dehydrates you. Keep hydrated during the day, and save your alcoholic drinks for the evening. This will also help save you from a nasty hangover!
- Bring supplies
Bring plenty of business cards, a pen and a small pad of paper. Grab a free tote bag early in the show so you can carry these items along with a bottle of water. Better yet, let them scan your badge and mail information to you, so you don’t have to lug it around all day. This may spare you paying extra for overweight luggage if you’re travelling, too. Leave your laptop behind! Bring a smart phone or Ipad for electronic support. They are far more portable and lightweight. Eye drops, breath mints and some asprin are handy to keep on hand as well.
If you are traveling, I recommend Hotwire to book your hotel. You can book a room in an undisclosed hotel (though it will tell you what type of hotel, Hyatt, Mariott Courtyard, etc.), it will show you the area in which it is located and the customer ratings--and the rates and are fantastic! We’re talking 50-70% off. I just used Hotwire to book all my hotels on a trip to the East coast. The hotels were all great and such a bargain—my bosses loved me!
- Book Hotels early
If possible, book your hotel early and find one within walking distance of the venue. This will save you waiting in long lines for cabs at the end of the day. Depending on your plans, you may not need to rent a car which will also save you additional parking fees.
- Evening review
If staying for more than one day, review your day’s work each evening and make notes and action item lists for later follow up while everything is fresh in your mind. It is easy to forget the details of conversations after spending more than one day at a tradeshow.
- Timely follow up
Due to the overwhelming nature of tradeshows, timely follow up is critical! A quick email, thank you note or action step will keep your exchanges fresh in the minds of the people whom you connected with at the show. Exhibitors often see hundreds of people over the course of the show. By following up quickly, you will be kept fresh and relevant in the minds of your contacts.
So far this season, I have attended Design con in Santa Clara, IWCE in Los Vegas and IPC Apex in San Diego. All have been great shows, well worth the time, effort and resources invested. In addition, we will be exhibiting at the Del Mar Electronics and Design Show in May and the MTTS-IMS 2012 in Montreal Canada in June. If you plan on attending either show, please stop and say hello. Best Wishes for a great Tradeshow Season! Judy
http://www.vts.com/delmar/ (BOOTH #670) May 2-3 2012
http://ims2012.org/ (BOOTH #2452) June 19-21, 2012