Preparation is very important before visiting a trade show, and this is true regardless of whether you are a buyer or a seller. In this article, we are going to focus on the preparations for buyers. If you are a seller, we recommend a visit to our preparation guide for sellers instead.
Quite a lot of people and organizations still leave any and all trade show preparations until the very last minute. This can give good results and it may seem like you do not need to prepare since you get good results regardless, the truth is however that you would probably have gotten an even better result if you had been more prepared. Why not impress your boss by improving an already solid performance, or make your competitors watch in awe as you seal deal after deal?
Ideally, you should start preparing for a trade show at least one-two months before the actual trade show. This is to optimize your time at the show and be able to prebook as many as possible of your important meetings. In some companies, the preparations for the next trade show will actually start right after the end of the previous trade show, as they carefully pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of their most recent performance.
Make a list
Start by making a list of your current regular suppliers. Put them on your ”to see” list if they have a presence in the show. They might have new products and you will get a chance to ask technical and purchasing questions directly to knowledgeable individuals. It can be good to contact these companies in advance and set up meetings with representatives. Make sure to give yourself time to view their exhibit before the meeting. All this will give you a chance to make valuable connections at the company and meet people you might normally not get to talk to on the phone or via email.
Below your current suppliers on your ”to see” list you should put companies and products that you have heard of and would like to look at closer but that you do not yet have a relationship with. You should also make a point out of visiting the exhibits of infrequent and occasional suppliers. They might have new products that would make them suitable as regular suppliers and regardless it is good to keep in contact with them. It will make possible business in the future easier.
Plan your ”to see” list around lectures, workshops, product presentations and keynote speeches you want to attend. Remember that a trade show is not just about making business but also about staying on top of market trends and new technologies.
If possible you should try to leave time in your schedule to walk around a little to discover unknown gems, but make a priority of the things mentioned above first.
Use exhibition maps
A good way to save time is to download and familiarise yourself with exhibition maps before you arrive at the trade show. A map might for instance be suitable to memorize during the flight to the trade show. Trade shows are often large and can seem quite chaotic if you arrive unprepared, causing you to lose a lot of time trying to get your baring when you first arrive.
In the weeks before a trade show, you will usually see preshow promotional material and press releases from the companies that exhibit in the show. This material usually includes advertisements in trade publications, invitations to visit exhibit booths and hospitality suites, invitations to supplier-sponsored local social events, feature stories and press releases. All this is to catch your attention and prepare you for future purchases, and it can be good to go through this material to find events that you might wish to include in your schedule.
Try to stick to your schedule once you are at the trade show but don’t be overly rigid. It is okay to rearrange or change your schedule if new opportunities present themselves. Just make sure never to be a no show to meetings. If you for whatever reason can not make it to a meeting you should contact the other part well in advance and try to reschedule the meeting if possible.