(Editor's Note: We're thrilled to welcome back our guest contributor, Audrey Isaac of 100Candles.com. Read more about Audrey at the end of the post!)
Tradeshows are great opportunities for many reasons – whether you’re going to pop in on a competitor or you’re looking to purchase new products for your inventory, there is plenty to do at a tradeshow if you know what you’re doing. When it comes to the off-season, there is no better time to capitalize on your “time off” than to take in a trade show or two.
But, what if you’re new to the game and aren’t 100% sure what the heck you’re doing at all?
Need no fear – let’s look at some of the essentials for a successful tradeshow so you can be on your way to schmoozing and making useful connections.
Go in with a plan
First and foremost, you must have a plan before attending any tradeshow. This includes which tradeshow you plan to attend – it’s important that it meets your needs and provides you with a return on investment. A quick search online should turn up some industry-specific options, but don’t limit yourself to industry events only. Branching out can open up other possibilities, like an entrepreneurial conference and tradeshow that targets all small business owners.
Once you know just where you’re going and have your tickets booked, sit down and make a list of goals you want to achieve both personally and professionally. Perhaps you’re going to see if the tradeshow is a good fit for you to exhibit in the future or maybe you’re just going to network and get in good with the industry leaders – whatever the reason, it’s important to know this ahead of time so you can make the most out of your time.
Review the tradeshow’s promotional materials to determine who you just have to see and do a bit of research on them so you can go in prepared. If you can find a map prior to arriving, even better – then you can even plan out your route in advance!
Pack with a purpose
You won’t be gone for too long, but you will want to make sure to pack the essentials if you want the best trip possible. Business cards are a major priority – you don’t want to forget them at home (trust me, true story!). In addition, you’ll also want to bring some comfortable clothes and shoes to wear. Yes, those heels are darling but you don’t want to end your day early because your feet started protesting before lunch. Keep in mind that large tradeshow floors tend to get humid, so come prepared with light clothes and water to stay hydrated.
While you’re there…
Don’t lose sight of the reason you came. Although the bright lights and crowded aisles can overwhelm the best of us, avoid feeling shy and keeping to yourself so you can make an impression on those that matter. At the same time, don’t feel obliged to talk to each and every person you make eye contact with. If you’re not interested in a service or product, save everyone’s time and keep on walking.
When you do come across something that interests you, go ahead and introduce yourself. Chances are they’ll offer you some pamphlets or marketing materials – take them if you’d like, but it may make sense to request them to be mailed to you so you don’t have to worry about toting them around all day (and later finding their brochure amidst all of the week’s receipts). Consider bringing a notebook to jot down ideas and other information that comes to mind – you may think you’ll remember something but it’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of a major event conference. Taking a few moments to write something down can make all the difference in remembering, even if it’s on the back of someone’s business card.
After the fact
Once you’ve made it home, you can take a much-deserved break! While you rest your feet, get organized with all of the information you gathered and follow up with any new contacts that you made. A simple email can make all the difference, so send over an introduction and remind them where you met and include any tidbits you shared if possible.
Tradeshows can be a useful source of industry insight, but effective attendance does require proper preparation. Don’t waste your time or money – do your research and have a plan!
Audrey Isaac is the spokesperson for 100 Candles, a wholesale market for candles and lights. Since 2002, thousands of wedding and event professionals have entrusted 100 Candles with their wholesale candle accounts. For more information, please visit http://www.100candles.com/.