I’ve attended more tradeshows over the years than I can count. Making the most of your time and your financial commitment is imperative and everyone should be doing these ten things at a minimum! Just showing up and wandering aimlessly is no way to approach any event, no matter how big or small. If you do the following things, your investment will pay off ten-fold.
- Research, research, research: Find out who is going, who you want to network with, set up appointments with those people whom you want to meet, and follow-up a couple days before the show to solidify plans via text or email. Make sure you put it in your calendar!
- See what vendors will be there and find out what product or service they are selling. Call them ahead of time and schedule an onsite demo. Ask questions ahead of time to make sure it’s a product or service that you truly need. Keep in mind that oftentimes there are show specials so if it’s a product or service you want, get budget approval before you go. Be prepared to sign up on the spot to capitalize on the savings. ACEDS will be at ILTACON 2018 in booth #130 so don’t forget to bookmark our booth. We will be giving a 20% discount on the CEDS Certification – quite substantial. Work on that budget now so you can save big at the show!
- Download the show app ahead of time. For example, ILTACON 2018 already has their app available for IOS and Android (just search for iltacon). There are hundreds of registrants already online sharing information about the show. The complete schedule is in the app so you can easily create your own schedule ahead of time. With a simple click on the event or session you want to attend, voila, your schedule is now in the palm of your hand. Very convenient and much easier then using a hardcopy and highlighter!
- Contact the speakers of important sessions ahead of time so they know what your pain points are and what you hope they cover in their presentation, All the speakers are listed on the app and can easily be contacted. Don’t be shy.
- Wear your badge on your left shoulder. It allows people to easily see your name with their peripheral vision and bypass that awkward stare to the middle of your chest. Also, carry your business cards within easy reach in your left pocket. That way, when your shaking hands with your right, you can easily reach your business cards with your left. Practice this move at home. It’s a skill that can appear very slick!
- Use the free conference Wi-Fi. For those who haven’t downloaded the ILTACON 2018 app yet, the SSID is ILTACON18 and the password is accellion. Accellion is the sponsor of the free Wi-Fi, hence the password name.
- Use the bookmark feature in the app to plan your attack on the exhibit hall. Don’t just wander the vast aisles aimlessly wasting precious time and energy. Once you’ve bookmarked the exhibitors you want to see, check out the Exhibit Hall map located in the app as well. Strategize your movement to flow from one end to the other, much like you do when you go grocery shopping.
- Introduce yourself to your neighbors. Whether at a session, a keynote, a coffee break, lunch or dinner, the elevator, or just sitting and relaxing – NETWORK! In my opinion, networking is one of the greatest advantages of tradeshows. Gather business cards from everyone you meet. Make notes on the back of the cards to help remind you of whom you’ve just met. Then, send them a follow-up email after the show saying how nice it was to have met them. You never know who how their skill set may come in handy for you one day.
- Wear comfortable shoes. I won’t be, but shoes are just my thing. I just can’t help myself. I just carry an extra pair so when my feet start screaming, I have a backup.
- Finally, pace yourself. Take time out of the day to absorb what you’ve learned, finish those notes on the backs of the business cards, get in a work-out or go to your room for a little break from the craziness of the day. All the sessions are gong to be recorded at ILTACON 2018 so you can always listen to them when you get back from the show.
If you do these things, you should be way ahead of the game. When you get back from the show, do a post-show brief. Share it with your supervisor or managing partner. How was it beneficial? What did you learn? Could you have done something different to maximize your attendance? Send emails to the contacts you made. Reach out to the speakers who really helped you solve a particular issue. Be polite to the vendors who WILL be contacting you if you stopped to talk. Remember, they are just doing their job. Most of all, have fun and make every moment count.
Oh, here is a little bonus. Leave some room in your suitcase when packing as ILTACON vendors usually have incredible swag (I.E. cool giveaways) You’re going to need the extra room to schlep all those great giveaways home. Share them with your staff. It’s great for brownie points! See you on the ACEDS Monumental Sunset Cruise if you were lucky enough to get a spot. See you in D.C.!