Just 30 minutes of preparation 30 days before your next show can save your feet and your sanity!
Do trade shows leave you exhausted and playing catch up? If there was ever a time for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) to make an appearance in our lives, trade shows are the perfect place, wouldn’t you say?
After all, exhibitors plan for major shows several months in advance (or longer) and their objective is to do just that, attract your attention.
Considering the wealth of information available online at our fingertips and with use of mobile devices combined with changes in our economy that have impacted travel budgets, integrators of every size are sending fewer and fewer team members to major trade shows. This has done two things, one: make the time spent at major national shows and events even more important to maximize what you get out of them, and two: increase the importance for integrators to send more people to regional and local trade shows and events.
Here’s a 5 step game plan to gaining a fresh perspective that will help you stay ahead of the trends (and the competition) and prepare your business for long-term growth:
- Make a Hit List:
- Identify key product lines and partners that immediately come to mind; these are the folks you do the majority of your business with or consistent business with
- Note companies that caught your attention over the last several months, whether it was a new product release, educational topic, industry trend, new area you’ve considered expanding into, etc. Quick Tip: Consider creating a folder in your email or in the cloud to save newsletter articles, ads, press releases, linked in conversations and more throughout the year to reference when you sit down to develop your trade show game plan and they will all be right there for you to grab and go.
- Pinpoint vendors, partners or suppliers that cause you or your organization pain. If you’re constantly dealing with issues that are a major disruption to your business or your ability to deliver consistent levels of service to your clients, major trade shows can be a good place to reconnect with key management members who can be helpful to finding solutions to solve the problem(s). Quick Tip: Not sure if there are any real issues that need to be addressed? This is the time to check in with your team and get some feedback. No, this is not an invitation for your best ‘tough-guy ‘ act on the trade show floor… thank them for their support of your business and be sure to accentuate the positives before you ask them for help with an issue you’re having. The goal is to reconnect, briefly mention the issue and follow up after the show for resolution.
- Plot Your Targets: Now that you have your hit list, put technology to work for you! Most major trade shows and even regional events will have a full listing of exhibitors including their aisle number or booth number. Some shows, like InfoComm for example even have an App that allows you to select the exhibitors you want to see and will plot them on a floor plan or map of the exhibit hall or convention center for you to reference on your mobile device right from the show floor. Personally, while I plot everything on a map of the facility, I still like to keep a printed version on hand even if just in my pocket to help you navigate the day through the first few meetings until you get your bearings of the hall.
- Book Appointments: Don’t go to the show and expect that your contact will be in the booth when you show up! Think about how much you’ve invested in getting to the show or sending your staff. Book appointments 30+ days in advance of the show. There are exceptions to every rule but prioritizing meetings important to you will have the best impact on your business long after the show is over. Quick Tip: Don’t spend your time rushing from one side of the floor to the other all day long, book appointments with every exhibitor on your Hit List and try to book Hit List before confirming appointments that are not essential to your business. If it’s an off-site meeting with a client, try to keep the meeting location as close as possible to the convention center or hall.
- Set Objective: For each meeting, jot down 2 or 3 things you want to get out of the meeting before you leave the booth that day. For example, see new Smart Signage Platform demo, address project registration issue with management, introduce key client to technical team, etc.
- Follow-Up: Within 3-5 days following the event, (not instantaneously after each meeting) send a brief follow up message to your meeting attendees to thank them for their continued support of your business and address any follow up items as discussed…
Many of you will plan on attending national or major regional shows but if you miss a show or it just isn’t in the budget this year, don’t despair. Call your Almo sales rep and have them bring the manufacturers to you! Interested in a new product line or consolidating your business to fewer lines to improve your buying power or strengthen your brand image with your clients? Want to grow your business in a specific market segment like video teleconferencing or hospitality products for guest rooms in addition to your current A/V business? Make your wishes known; our team is here to help you grow your business for the long-run so maximize your relationship with Almo and let us leverage the full resources of our vendor partners to help support you.
I’d love to hear your trade show tips. What valuable lessons have you learned over the years that can help newcomers to the industry? What’s your take on national vs. local shows?