10 Tips for a Better Trade Show Experience

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We have made it to the new year, a new decade. And with the turn of every calendar comes the rush of industry trade shows. Next week we will be traveling to Las Vegas for the IBS/KBIS Show or the Builder’s/Kitchen & bath Show. Following that, we will be in Orlando for the AHR Show, North America’s largest HVAC show. Oh yeah, let’s not forget about World of Concrete, back in Vegas. The goal is to see, feel and test new products, learn and network with fellow attendees.

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The AHR Expo—Feb 3-5, Orlando—is one of the largest annual North American trade shows.

When attending these trade shows, it is best to have a plan. Having attended dozens of these show in the past, I have come up with some tips and strategies for a better trade show experience.

  1. Map Out Your Plan — All of these shows have corresponding websites with maps, and a list of exhibitors and events. I can’t stress enough to map out your day so you are the most efficient with your time, energy and steps on the trade show floor. (ahrexpo.com & www.buildersshow.com & www.worldofconcrete.com) Downloading the appropriate trade show apps is a must.
  2. Wear Comfortable Shoes & Clothing — We all want to look good, and professional, but gone are the days of stuffy apparel. I’d rather feel comfortable and fresh at the end of the day than out of sorts, sweaty and dogs a barking.
  3. Give Yourself Enough Time — The stress of a trade show can be daunting in and of itself. Take as much time as you need to take a deep breath and move freely on the show floor. It’s always a good idea to come in the day or night before a show to make sure all is in order and registration for the show is set. If you are planning a night out, make sure you make any necessary reservations ahead of time.
  4. Afterparty Over-Indulging — We all love to go out and enjoy ourselves, especially after a long day at a show. There are numerous manufacturer parties, dinners, soirees, etc. where one can relax and wind down. But staying out all night—and drinking—can be fun, and up to your discretion, but it isn’t advisable, especially if you intend to be at the show the following day. Nobody is impressed with the over-perspired, alcohol lingering on breath, bags under the eyes, headache pounding visit from on overserved attendee. Pro Tip: Keep hydrated and carry a protein bar just in case you get the munchies. The IAQ in these large buildings is usually very poor and the air can get dry.10 Tips for a Better Trade Show Experience, AHR Expo, Builders Show, IBS, KBIS, World of Concrete, navigating trade shows
  5. Plan Accordingly for Transportation — Most of the time at busy trade shows, transportation can, well, be a bitch, especially after a show. Keep this in mind as long taxi lines will form to and from the shows. Download your favorite rideshare app so you are locked and loaded.
  6. Travel in Packs — If traveling in groups, try to stay in one place or area. It alleviates costs on transportation and makes meetings much more amenable.
  7. Be Prepared to Exchange Contact Info — Make sure you have business cards on hand and be prepared to exchange info digitally, so make sure your phone is charged or bring extra chargers! Also, make sure you have proper badges for the show. For example, attendee, exhibitor and press badges all provide different access and different access times. Make sure you understand the limitations of your particular given badge.
  8. Follow-up with Contacts — Once the show is over, what it your end game? What better way to measure the results of a show personally than to document leads, follow up with new contacts, and were you satisfied with your expectations of information, contacts and overall impressions?
  9. Cellular/WiFi Service — Most shows do not offer WiFi on the show floor, or if they do, it usually sucks. There are certain spots at different venues you may be able to sneak a signal, maybe. Make sure your service is covered in the areas where you are, or be prepared to go without in the dark recesses of a concrete building.
  10. If Unable to Attend … — Be sure to follow your favorite social media outlets that are attending (Search Mechanical Hub on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram) and keep up to date on what’s going on from the show floor. First of the year trade show events are when companies have big product announcements, launches and press briefings.

Good luck, and have a great trade show experience!