7 Tips for Maximizing Your Trade Show Attendance

It can be funny to see how over-the-top comic-book fans can be at events like Comic-Con, but then you realize people can be just as passionate about attending certain events in the commercial vehicle industry. Okay, most of us don’t show up in costume, but trade shows, expos, and conventions are still a huge deal.

Trade shows are a unique opportunity to be surrounded by professionals and other individuals in your field, where conversations about work are easy and don’t require lengthy explanations about industry terms. This makes industry events fantastic opportunities to make connections, find that product that will take your business to the next level, and of course, compete with your colleagues for who can find the best giveaways.

Of course, convention and expo attendance that is truly successful requires some level of strategic planning. Below are our tips for maximizing your trade show attendance:

  • Attend the right show. Do your research and figure out all the major shows that happen in a year. Review each trade show website and answer the following questions: What companies are exhibiting? Who is attending? Are any of the exhibitors or attendees potential prospects? Think about the needs of your business: Are you specifically shopping around for a new hiring system and would it be helpful to talk to multiple companies at once? Are you specifically looking to gain some industry insights on what is up and coming? Even if you are not specifically in the market for products to bring into your business, trade shows can be excellent learning resources that offer educational sessions from industry experts.
  • Register online. Make sure to register before arriving on site, as many shows have deadlines of when you need to be registered by. You can also take advantage of early bird pricing at most shows by registering a few months in advance.
  • Make a plan. Download and/or print the show’s floor-plan, exhibitor list, educational sessions, and anything else that will help you get organized. Let’s face it: we all underestimate how big the show floor is going to be, so save yourself time and energy by planning your overall route and highest priority stops.
  • Bring business cards. You never know who you are going to run into — you may find a booth you weren’t planning on stopping by or even a new company that turns out to have an amazing product. These shows are a major opportunity for networking, so make sure you have a way to receive follow-up info. You can always drop your extras into the prize drawings that many booths offer.
  • Be patient. If there are crowds at a booth, then there’s a good chance they are a business worth meeting  (or maybe someone hired a cool celeb to stop by their booth). Wait it out, because you never know if you’ll get the opportunity to make it back to this booth — no matter how many times you tell yourself you will.
  • Don’t be a wallflower. Approach the reps at a booth with quality questions pertaining to their business. Be engaging — a conversation should be an exchange, so don’t just stand there and expect them to do all the work. And don’t be afraid to go up to speakers after a presentation and ask them questions; it’s a great networking opportunity and you can get personalized responses to your questions. By the end of a show, you should be bringing valuable information back to your colleagues who did not attend.
  • Take advantage of show specials. If an exhibitor stands out to you as having a product that would be useful for your business or if you know of a product that you would want to purchase, always be sure to find out if they have any show specials. Taking advantage of discounted rates is a great way to experience new products for the first time without wasting money.

Following these guidelines will help you maximize time and efficiency in order to take advantage of all that trade shows have to offer. Now, go forth and conquer trade show season!

Ethan Smith HeadshotAbout the Author

Ethan Smith

Ethan is a Content Curator for Trader Interactive, serving the brands Commercial Truck Trader, Commercial Web Services, and Equipment Trader. Ethan believes in using accessible language to elevate conversations about industry topics relevant to commercial dealers and their buyers.


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