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6 ways to make the most out of attending a trade show

By Tim Fuell - May 21, 2013

Can you really justify a day out of the office? Is there more to exhibitions than just collecting carrier bags and free gifts?

Stand 1072 - The Business Show - 123-reg.co.uk

There certainly should be more to attending a trade show than just the bits of paper and plastic you collect, but it will only work if you do your homework and prepare properly and fully before the event, so plan ahead. It doesn’t stop at just attending the event – before or after!

Here’s our six top tips to making your attendance at any event – trade show, exhibition, conference, open-day, etc – more effective and easier to justify as worthy of a day out of the office.

1. Plan before your leave

In fact plan a week or so in advance. Maybe to some it may sound obvious but you will be surprised how few people actually do it.  Of course, it means justifying another afternoon ‘off’ of normal commitments but in the long-term it actually justifies itself and the day attending the conference.  Most events will have a pretty comprehensive website nowadays, make sure you trawl every page. It may sound laborious but it should be inspiring. Have a look at who is exhibiting. Is there any angle you may want to talk to them about? Do you want to know more about what they offer? Check the speakers and seminars lists. Which of these would you be interest in attending?

2. Open your Mind

Whilst planning is essential, don’t miss out on experiencing things you may never have heard of before. Business expos are often where the future of business and technology is first unveiled and many slip under the radar. It was over a decade from the first digital music player being shown and Apple making it a commercial success with the iPod. You may just see something that sparks something off in your own mind too. Also if you have time, if you have heard bad reviews about a certain seminar speaker try and take the opportunity to make your own mind up by watching them in action. At most it will likely only be 30 minutes of your time and even from bad public speakers you can learn a lot.

3. Network, Network, Network

Face-to-face has so many advantages so grab the opportunity while you can. People visit exhibitions, expos, trade shows, whatever name they go by for very different reasons. Most however, will be looking to network to promote their business so you will find people friendly to strike up a conversation with – whether that is on their stand, sat alongside you in a seminar room or even in the queue for a coffee. Don’t miss out. Don’t under-estimate the power of the business card in the modern world either. It pays to have a stack to share even if they just point to your online presence in the social sphere where more networking is done.

4. Get social

While networking face to face is still strong, much of the buzz around events is online before, during and after the event. Make sure you get involved there too. As part of your preparation make sure your Twitter and Linked-In Profiles are up to date. Not got one? Then these events are the perfect place to start and begin building your networks. Review your online profiles. Is there a photograph of you? Do all the links work? Are the profile words accurate. You can probably find out the official hashtag in advance too off the event’s website so maybe set up a search that follows that hashtag so you can keep up to date with others at the event and maybe jump in.

5. Make sure you do Business

Remember exhibitors are there to sell their products so if there is something you like the look of this is a great opportunity to get a bargain. If you know before the event what you may be interested in then make sure you have figures clear in your head before you go. How much can you get this product elsewhere? That’s your benchmark now at the event. The sales people on the stand may well be on a commission bonus especially for the event so  are very likely to be willing to spark a deal. Don’t jump into something you haven’t seen before though. Many a person has walked away from an event carrying an essential tool they will never ever use. If the deal is too good to miss, walk away and do some research online and then come back and try and knock some more off the price before you seal the deal.

6. Don’t stop when you leave the event

Making connections at the event or learning new information is only half of it. You now need to put that in action, and quickly. On the way home from the event list all the positives (and negatives) you gained from the event. Make a note of what you need to follow-up and how you can put things into action for your own business. If you networked don’t let those new connections go cold. They will have met countless others so its worth networking on social as soon as possible to remind them. Don’t crowd people out though. Make sure you give them space so they don’t fear you are a stalker. Equally make sure you do a formal follow-up within the next week. Set follow-up meetings or other events you might both be attending to link-up again.

Want to see the 123-reg team at a trade show? We’ll be attending The Business Show at London’s Excel at the start of June. Come and say hello.