For busy contractors — particularly smaller firms — it’s easy to justify skipping trade shows. After all, time at a trade show is time away from the job, and, depending on location, shows can be expensive to travel to and expensive to attend. However, with the proper planning, trade shows are a more than worthwhile endeavor. Take a little time to determine what you’d like to gain from the trade show experience, and you can ensure the effort is worth the investment.
If you’ve decided you’d like to attend a trade show, you must take the appropriate steps to get a good return on your investment of both money and time. The key is making the correct decisions in advance, and then ensuring you follow through on the trade show floor. If you set the right goals, you’ll be on track to achieve your desired results.
Before you even select a show, think of the areas where your company needs the most improvement. New equipment? Employee training or certification? Industry education or trends? Once you’ve targeted areas for improvement, you’ll be ready to select a show and develop a plan.
In order to make the most of the experience, planning is key. Trade shows feature thousands of exhibitors, and it’s easy to lose hours on the show floor looking at equipment that, while interesting, you won’t be buying. Remember, the larger the show; the more important the preparation.
After you’ve completed the goalsetting process, show selection will fall into place. If you’ve decided you want to see the latest equipment models, you’re going to look for an upcoming show that is targeted to your specific industry. If you’re taking employees for certification, find a show that touts a strong educational track.
Once you’ve registered, obtain an exhibitor list and seminar schedule and plan out your show. The larger trade shows have downloadable apps with maps that will minimize the time you spend crisscrossing the show floor.
Once you’re on the show floor, make sure you have a notebook or notes app handy to record any impressions you have, particularly on equipment. After a couple of days and hundreds of booths, you won’t want to rely solely on memory.
Even as you plan, keep in mind that trade shows are often uncharted territories for attendees, and offer unique potential for growth. Build in some time to walk the show floor and check out new products, and discover which booths have big crowds — you may uncover an industry trend.
Shows are also excellent ways to spark ideas for new services, or additional lines of business. During your own exploration, or in talks with your dealer, you may find opportunities to expand your own menu of services to your clients.
And, trade shows are an excellent way to develop a network of people outside of your region. If you’re curious about how other companies address challenges and issues you face in your business, you have the perfect chance to talk with non-competitive contractors about their own experiences in workshops and seminars.
And remember, if you just can’t break away from the office, sending a valued and trusted employee to a trade show to expand their skills through educational opportunities is a great way to show them how much they mean to the company, and to you.
Once you get home, make sure you’ve got more than just a bag full of swag to show for your trade show experience. Based on what you learned at the show, take the following actions:
Talk with your employees within a couple of days of returning from the show. Information that should be shared with them includes any educational information you learned in workshops that would help them better do their jobs.
It’s likely you picked up quite a few business cards over the course of the show. Within a week, email them and tell them it was great to meet them, and you’d like to stay in touch and exchange ideas from time to time. If they are on LinkedIn, connect with them.
If you went to the show to check out new equipment, and you found something you know will boost your productivity and efficiency, contact your dealer and work on ways to add that machine to your fleet.