Trade shows are a big part of many industries, and one of the best ways to network. In fact, with most of our lives spent on the Internet, it can be a shock to see how quickly great business relationships can form through participation at trade shows and industry events. However, the need to be on your feet and interacting with people for long periods of time can make the experience less than optimal. Here are some tips for a happier and healthier experience at your next trade show:
Plan Your Days Diligently
Have you ever gone on vacation and been so busy that you didn’t give a thought as to what you might see or do on your trip until you arrived at the hotel? Did you find yourself scrambling to book tours or decide where to drive and what to see? The same thing can happen at trade shows and who wants to spend all that money on a business investment and not maximize their time?
Trade shows have an agenda along with workshops and sessions scheduled weeks or months in advance. You should review that schedule well ahead of your trip, buy your session tickets or RSVP (if needed), and plan your day around the events that appeal to you most.
But don’t stop there. Plan your breaks and lunches for maximum effectiveness. Many trade shows incorporate an event mobile app or an interactive before the show, so that you can see who is attending ahead of time. Be proactive and schedule a few key coffees and drink meetings with prospective partners or clients. In many cases, these informal meetings can be just as valuable as the scheduled events.
Exhibiting? Bring the Right People and a Joyful Attitude
If you are attending a trade show as an exhibitor you first have to make sure that you have ample staff to allow everyone the chance for breaks. If possible, at least one person should be able to attend sessions and network. You truly cannot evaluate the effectiveness of a trade show for your brand if you spend all day in trade show alley. Nor can you be at your best for all those passersby if you are exhausted!
Perhaps you’ll find that the booth isn’t the most effective use of your budget, but you see a couple of sponsored breakout sessions or a sponsored cocktail party. These are usually where a business owner says a few words, and it can give an alternative way of getting in front of your office as well as ideas for maximizing next year’s spend.
Back at the booth, make sure you have invited people who really want to be there. Extroverts are your best choice for this job, but don’t just stick to the sales team. Bring in some team members from marketing and customer service, and let them listen directly to the customers. Make sure there is a reason for people to have fun at your booth. You don’t have to be the title sponsor to draw people into an interactive or fun activity, a compelling video that plays on loop, or a prize drawing that is really relevant to your brand. (Hint: Think beyond the free iPad—it’s tired. Maybe an Apple Watch?)
Happy Feet vs. Flashy Shoes
Those pesky trade show maps can be so deceiving when it comes to looking at the scale of the show! Sometimes it can be a half-mile between exhibit hall and the various conference rooms. Certainly you want to look your best, but from the ankles down, invest in great shoes that feel good to wear for 10-hour stretches. For women, I’m told heels are fine as long 1) you’re used to wearing heels for the majority of the day, and 2) they’re your most comfortable set, but you’re probably better off wearing some elegant flats instead, and carry a satchel with your fancy shoes tucked away for cocktail hour.
Eat and Drink Sensibly
There can be a tendency during work travel to have our brains say, “Oh, hey—I’m in this hotel, it’s just 3 days,” and then we proceed to eat and drink with abandon. Sure, there is always a lot of social drinking going on at the after-parties, but you can have just one drink, and then ask the bartender for sparkling water with fruit or lime. That way, you still sip along with everyone else without losing your edge, adding extra calories to your day, or having a headache the next morning.
As for food choices, airport and hotel food can sure be tough. To stay on track, pick fruit and yogurt or muesli/cereal/oatmeal for breakfasts, bring your own snacks like almonds and dried fruit to save time and money, while preventing you from raiding the fattening treat stations at every break.
For your major meals, try to stick with protein and veggie combinations. Not only will these choices save your waistline, they are proven to keep your mind sharper, too, so you can make better networking connections, and close more deals! Finally, carrying around your own water bottle to take advantage of the fountains in the conference center can save you from long lines and overpriced drinks.
There you have it! Use these four simple tips to make your next trade show a triumph versus a trial! Anything we missed? Drop us a line!