Some people really like this aspect of their business, they enjoy talking to their suppliers and seeing the new products but some of us can find it a bit overwhelming. This guide will show you how to get the best out of your visit to a trade show.
Before you go: Pre-show preparation:
Things have changed a lot in the exhibiting world over the past few years. The bigger shows now have their own “apps” that you can download way before the show begins which makes your research and your visit to the show more productive.
Register in advance for pre-show news, information and updates – Organisers are keen to showcase their exhibition and will send you out lots of information that should give you some clarity about which companies you would like to see more of.
It goes without saying that you should be registered for the trade publications relevant to your show – Each show now also has a media partner who will be a relevant trade publication – Call them and ask for a copy – or view them online and do some homework – Your time is valuable and you don’t want to spend it traversing exhibition halls needlessly.
Finally, and this isn’t strictly a pre show preparation, but its very important so its worth mentioning. Most trade fairs now run seminars for visitors on topics relevant to their industry – Obviously keep in mind that the aim of these is to sell you something, but sales pitches aside, they are very useful for snapshots and soundbites on an industry and development and current issues within an industry.
What you need to know when visiting a trade exhibition !
Firstly, the exhibitors have spent a lot of money and time to make their stands look as good as possible for your convenience. Let’s run through the preliminaries that enable you to spend your valuable time at the show as profitably as possible:
1. Wear comfortable shoes:
Yes, really this is worth writing. You will cover miles and miles of walkways, this is no fun at all, if you are wearing heels (ladies you know who you are!) or have uncomfortable shoes. Sacrifice vanity for sanity on this one please. Also, never, ever, ever wear NEW shoes to a trade show !
2. Layer up:
Car parks are cold (You know I’m talking about the NEC here), whereas exhibition halls are warm, or cold if you’re under air conditioning units…. The best idea is to wear layered clothing so you can take off, or add on layers as necessary.
3. Drink lots of water:
Stay hydrated, so you make good buying decisions. And make time to eat when you get hungry. Carry snack bars with you to keep your sugar levels up, so you can stay focused.
4. Rest when you feel tired:
The lighting in exhibitions can be very yellowish, which makes your eyes strain, so take plenty of rest, otherwise its no fun at all. Try to build in a small treat for yourself somewhere in the day. A mini massage, a visit to a supplier you really like, a wicked lunch – anything that keeps it fun for you !
The halls at exhibitions can be massive, so having a rough gameplan will help you stay on track, and don’t have to run around in a panic afraid that you’ll miss something ! It goes without saying that some shows are bigger than others, some can be done in a day, some are simply too damn big – I’m thinking primarily of the NEC Spring and Autumn Fairs here – give yourself time – don’t turn into a pressure cooker !
6. See the companies you really need to see first : so they’re off your list and you can relax and enjoy the rest of the day without pressure
7. Allocate some specific time to look for new products: After all you can see most of your present suppliers at any time, or they’ll come and visit you, whereas its new product and suppliers you really need to search out at a show. Few things compare to the thrill of finding a new product or supplier that you know is going to bring great results for you, so its worth investing some time into this and creating this opportunity – the halls are simply too big to leave this to chance.
8. Have a show budget:
Work out how much money you have to spend, how much you want to spend and keep a track of each order you’ve placed. Your accountant will love you for this. Remember to allocate some of your budget to new suppliers / new product – we all need new products to keep us enthusiastic !
9. Keep a note of how much you’ve spent and which delivery date you’ve asked for:
Immediate, next week, or delayed. This will help you to organise your schedule when you get back to your shop.
If you’re going to be spending some time at a show, have a bad back, or plan on picking up a lot of literature (and there’s usually lots on offer) then consider taking a small suitcase on wheels with you. These are comfortable, save your back and allow you to pack away anything you don’t need, such as coats and scarves. How big? No bigger than aircraft cabin luggage !
11. Pre show planning :
So important I’ve mentioned it twice. Most trade magazines will be posted out between one or two weeks before a show so they’ll be fresh and topical. They’ll have show previews in them, with lots of new product. They’ll also have sections on new trends – make the time to study these magazines as well as doing your own research, so you’ll be able to spend your time effectively at the show.
12. Accommodation :
Finally, if you’re coming a long way, or you need to stay a couple of days? Book a hotel room, make a night of it, empty a bottle of wine or two, put the world to rights, and have some fun !
All work and no play makes for no fun !