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Some people love to attend trade shows, and some people think they are a waste of time. What does the data say the right answer is? Is it worth it for a supervisor to send people on the company dime, to a trade show and risk having the employees use that as “down time” rather than time to make contacts and maybe even increase productivity?

As an Exhibitor

Like most things in life, trade shows are useful if the attendees put effort into it. Those who present or have space at trade shows need a plan to attract good attention and to make the best use of their time.

  • Use social media before the event and during the event.

    instagram-1474234_1920Let people know via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. about the event. Tell them what you will discuss that is new and valuable to customers, and mention any giveaways that might entice more people to visit your area.

  • Have a plan.

    Part of the plan is to know what you want to accomplish by spending company time and resources at the event. Do you want to have a conversation with 500 people? Do you want to get 100 business cards from visitors? What do you want and how will you measure your success? Know the answers before you commit to having space at a trade show.

  • Do something at your space that makes you different from other exhibitors.

    Make your color scheme interesting. Have hourly drawings. Do something that makes people want to come by your space. Then, when people stop by, have a plan to make them stay and speak to you. 

  • Call customers and let them know you will be at the trade show; ask if they will be attending. 

    Try to schedule an appointment while at the trade show, then keep it. If you have a customer you want to attract, this could be a chance to get your foot in the door. Try to set up a short meeting so they can put a name to a face for future interactions. Then, have a plan to make them your customer.

  • Now is a chance to point out what makes your service or product different.

    In sales calls, people don’t always want to hear about a new feature. When you can meet in person, or magnify a feature that makes what you do or what you have special, you can hook people. And, if what you have doesn’t attract a customer’s attention this year, they can walk on past you and you haven’t burned any bridges.

  • Explain things without overusing sales jargon.

    This is a chance to show people what you do without having to overdo it. Enjoy that and act like you really believe in what you’re doing. Hopefully you do.

As a Visitor

If you have never gone to a trade show, or haven’t gone to one in a while, it is time to consider making a return trip. Trade shows used to have a reputation for being a place to overindulge and to get out of work. Now, they are a place to learn a lot about the industry and make important contacts.

  • Trade shows allow professionals to get a sense of the market conditions for their goods and services.

    It is easy to think you’re in a bubble if you don’t see like-minded professionals. Trade shows put you in proximity with similar professionals and you can get a sense for how your market is faring. A trade show can be a great chance to learn about market trends!

  • 36171765See what is happening in your industry.

    Often, trade shows are the first place you can see what the future trends are. If you don’t go anywhere, you may be behind the curve. You don’t have to buy the first widget you see, but you can think about how you will—or won’t—use that widget in the future. Seeing things before industry-wide release is fun as well as helpful.

  • Get ideas at trade shows.

    Find out what other people are doing, and then think about whether those things would make you more successful too. This is a chance to learn from people on the ground, and to ask them how they implemented their ideas.

  • Meet people who can help you.

    Salespeople, peers, or anyone who can help you will be the groups that make up a trade show audience. 

  • Find out how to solve a specific problem you have.

    If you have a problem, someone else probably faced the same thing. A trade show is a great place to find out how others fixed the issue—and if it can’t be fixed, then at least you’ll know.

Avoid trade shows and you run the risk of missing a chance to gain invaluable resources—many of which are the intelligence and experience of others. Lose your phobia and watch your business improve!