Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Jen’s Trade Show Tips: Attending Your First Show

Are you heading out to your first trade show? Need some trade show tips? In my 2-part series, I will be outlining what I have learned from attending and exhibiting at my first trade shows. Some of this is common sense, but it is definitely worth knowing before you leave for your first show.

My first trade show was World of Concrete in February 2009. As you can guess from the name, it's the biggest event of it's kind. Spanning the entire Las Vegas Convention Center, it was overwhelming to say the least. There were so many different vendors to see and products to check out. My goal was to familiarize myself with the construction industry and network with industry people. It involved a LOT of walking. This is what I learned:

Trade Show Tip #1 – Before you arrive, do some research.

Get a list of vendors and decide who you will be visiting during the show. It is a good idea to then identify where each booth is located on a map of the show floor. I made sure I had the booth numbers circled on my map.

Grab the map and do all of your homework before the actual event. That way, you won’t waste as much time trying to find vendors when you arrive.

Trade Show Tip #2 – Stay hydrated.

It may seem obvious, but if you’re walking and talking to people for hours, make sure you bring water with you. Seriously, you don’t realize how tired you will be. Especially if you are a coffee drinker, you'll run out of gas very fast if you do not remember to drink water throughout the day.

Trade Show Tip #3 – Wear comfortable walking shoes.

What defines a comfortable shoe? Not necessarily what you think. This is something you have to learn through practice. After being on my feet for 8 hours, I realized that what I thought would be comfortable (a pair of lace-up casual shoes with very little support), was not. On day 2, it only got worse. When I got back to my hotel, I wanted to massage my feet and change into flip flops.

Different people like different brands of shoe, so again, you will have to find out what works. I have a coworker that swears by MBT's. I recommend an athletic shoe for your first show. You can experiment from there with different brands and different levels of support.

Trade Show Tip #4 – Take notes on the people you meet.

Each time you get a business card, write notes on the back of it to remind you about the conversation you had. This was an excellent tip from my co-worker, Melanie. You will remember things about the person and the context of your meeting that will help you initiate contact once the trade show is over. Notes can be business-related--"requested info about product x"--or they can be entirely personal--"has a child in x college." It is a good way to remember people in general, but it is especially important when you're meeting several dozen new people each day.

It's your first time at a trade show and maybe you're in Vegas, so have FUN!!!

Photo Credit: Melanie Loftus and Jenifer Chan pose with Elvis at the White Cap booth during World of Concrete in 2009.

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