Four Tips to Elevate Your Tradeshow Experience

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The “Big Game” is over and the NFL season has come to an end. However, another season is just starting to ramp up – tradeshow season. Whether you’re a tradeshow veteran or rookie, it’s important to plan ahead and develop an effective strategy that can help make the most of your experience. Bill Belichick doesn’t step onto the field without a game plan in place and neither should you when it comes to attending a tradeshow. Without proper planning, you could end up missing out on some key seminars, tradeshow booths or networking events that could be beneficial to your business.

Here are four tips to consider before you even step foot on the tradeshow floor that will elevate your overall experience:

 Consider speaking opportunities

Do you consider yourself an expert in your industry or does your company offer an innovative product that others would be interested in learning about? Then consider taking part in one of the many panel discussions or speaking opportunities offered at tradeshows. The tradeshow setting is the perfect place to garner attention and demonstrate your credibility as a subject matter expert. As soon as you see a Call for Speakers announcement for a tradeshow you plan to attend, start developing a compelling proposal to submit for consideration. Be sure to keep your audience in mind and create objectives that attendees will achieve by attending your presentation. Remember to be creative – for example, a concise and catchy presentation title will be more likely to stand out and grab attention than one that is wordy and straightforward.

Do your homework

Many tradeshows are adopting a system like #SXSW Social that allows you to connect with other attendees prior to the event. Additionally, you can always visit the tradeshow’s website to find lists of attendees, presentations and events. Take the time to review these lists and create a schedule of what you will want to attend or see during the show. Another good tip to get a head start on networking is to reach out to other attendees or speakers via LinkedIn and start building a relationship before the tradeshow begins. This will set you apart and give you a chance to schedule meetings with these contacts well in advance. Also, review and print a copy of the trade show floor map, highlighting the booths you definitely want to visit. A good visual will make it easier for you to navigate through the often crowded and busy tradeshow floor, resulting in a better utilization of your time.

 Strategize with your colleagues

Most companies send more than one person to an industry tradeshow. If this is the case for your organization, find out who else will be attending so you can meet ahead of time to get your plans in sync. One effective strategy is to implement a “divide and conquer” approach to the tradeshow. Review your lists of seminars, presentations and after-hour events then determine which team members will attend so you can maximize your company’s presence at the tradeshow. By collaborating with your co-workers, you will be able to share more information and potential contacts with one another once the show ends.

Details, details, details

When it comes to tradeshows, it’s easy to forget about the little things that can make a big difference. Before you leave, remember to bring plenty of business cards to use for booth giveaways and networking events. Also, you’ll no doubt be doing a lot of walking, so pack comfortable shoes and clothing so you’ll be ready to tackle the show floor. It’s also a good idea to bring your own tote bag to carry all the collateral and materials you’ll be picking up along the way. No one likes to use the infamous tradeshow plastic bags with the uncomfortable drawstrings that can cut off your circulation! Instead, bring your own bag from home that is large enough to carry your materials and will definitely be more practical to use.

A tradeshow strategy is a must in order to take advantage of all the available opportunities the event has to offer. The more planning you do ahead of time, the better your overall experience will be. Don’t wait until the last minute to create your plan, or worse, try to play it by ear. A well-designed tradeshow plan before the event starts is a smart and effective approach that will result in a positive ROI for your company long after the show ends.