Part 1 Preparing to Go to the Show
Every serious profession in the world has a multitude of trade shows and conferences catering to the sales, marketing, networking and professional development of its members. While there are always local, regional and state shows, each national trade association has one monster annual show that is not to be missed. For mortgage bankers, the big show to attend each year is the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Annual Convention, which this year will be held in late October in DC celebrating their 100th Conference. For homebuilders, the go-to show each year is the enormous National Association of Home Builders’ International Builders Show, which is held in Las Vegas in January or February each year. For CPAs, the American Institute of CPAs offers national accounting conferences for each industry, including the AICPA’s National Real Estate Show. And, for shopping center owners and retailers, there are few shows bigger than the International Council of Shopping Centers’ RECON Show, currently under way in Las Vegas.
Trade shows and conferences serve a multitude of purposes. They facilitate sales and sales pitches from a wide variety of vendors and businesses. Potential buyers can shop around while vendors get to show off what they have to offer. Attendees are also able to interact with many vendors of products and services in one concentrated location. Vendors also benefit from being in a place with so many potential customers. They have the opportunity to see what their competitors are doing, and if they are being successful at it. They can also gauge if new market trends are worth following. A business can create a new image or reinforce an existing brand. It also provides an excellent opportunity for vendors and attendees alike to gain new knowledge by receiving tips, tools, and strategies. For start-ups, trade shows and conferences are an excellent way for the business to make themselves known and for their leadership to learn more about the industry. Conference attendees are also able to attend a multitude of seminars and roundtables to help sharpen the saw.
That said, it is not enough to just show up at the show and soak up the ambiance in a scattered, haphazard way. To get the most from a conference or trade show, it is important to prepare for the show well and then leverage every opportunity once there. While it is usually clear what a vendor must do to prepare for a show, it may not be so obvious as to what an attendee should do to prepare for an important show?
I. Before the Show
Pants or skirts can be worn multiple times. Bring multiple shirts or blouses that can be mixed and matched. Bring accessories that can either dress something up, such as a tie, scarf or shawl. Bring a pair of jeans in case there is a need to dress down. Bring only comfortable shoes. Bring a jacket if the weather could potentially get cooler. And don’t overfill suitcases. Leave room to bring back materials or mementos, if need be.
Call to ensure hotel, car and any other reservations are secure. Notify the hotel in case you need late check out or early check in. Make sure your registration packet will be ready and that you have your badge, ID and whatever else is needed at the show.
Plan a strategy for what to do once at the destination. Start this weeks before a conference. Determine if what you really want is to meet with vendors or attend seminars. Consider if the networking events are important to you in order to connect with peers in your industry or if you’d rather use that time resting. Do you want to participate in off-site gatherings or just concentrate on the on-site events?
Identify Vendors to See
Compile a list of the companies or vendors with whom you want to meet. Start a list with the company name, booth number and contact person of vendors you want to meet. Do research to see what experts may be available at the show. Several big tradeshows now have mobile applications that let you “flag” vendors. This can be really helpful when you are actually at the event and trying to figure out how close booth A is to booth Z.
If there are vendors you really want to see, make the appointment to see them early. If they are particularly popular, appointment times may fill up quickly so the sooner you get it done, the better. Track appointments in a digital calendar on smart phone or iPad with all the details. But also print out the schedule and have it handy in case internet connectivity inside the convention center or hotel is compromised, or if your phone runs out of power during the show.
Know Thy Surroundings
Look at the trade show map or site plan. Get a lay of the land. Plan a path around the show floor, paying close attention to where things are and the timing of your meetings. Allow time for walking as well. By being familiar with the setting, you won’t lose precious time lost. Still, don’t overbook your schedule just in case there is something else you realize you need to do.
What you bring really depends on what you are going to be doing (live vs. recorded, written vs. multimedia, etc.). Here are some suggestions:
- Compact video cameras are now so small that they fit in a shirt pocket. However, many can just use their smart phone to record video, so you may not need two gadgets.
- Digital camera is a must have for products and people pictures and be sure you have extra batteries and chargers. Unless you don’t care about quality and resolution, don’t use a smart phone to take photos. Those cannot be used for print or online.
- Laptop/Notebook is a plus if you are attending seminars or need to show others samples, information, or documentation.
- Cell/smart phone is an essential item as long as it works within the conference facility.
- Batteries/Battery cases are essential. Even more important is having a charger and/or a battery backup that extends the life of the battery on busy days.
- Cables are also essential, be sure that you have power and connection cables for all of your devices (micro, standard, mini USB, iPhone/iPod cable, laptop and other cables)
Business cards are another critical item on the list. Bring enough so that you don’t run out.
Next week, we’ll take a look at what to do once you’re at the show. Don’t miss it.
Quote of the Week
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Abraham Lincoln
© 2013, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.