Just like in competitive sports, you shouldn’t go to a tradeshow without a little basic training. This brief primer will help get you into shape for any upcoming event or expo. Once you grab hold of these strategies, you can be sure you’ll score a sizeable win, no matter what your game plan may be.
Of course, you’re not going to any event if you don’t register and book reservations ahead of time. Clearly, the earlier you register the better—especially because most expos offer pre-show discounts and hotel rooms can sell out early. Moreover, airline prices can soar into the impossible-to-afford zone if you don’t opt for advance-sales rates. Book early and rest easy knowing you’ll be traveling the most economically as possible.
If you can, get a hold of a show program once it’s available. Some expos will immediately send registrants information in the mail. If not, or if you can’t wait that long, jump on the Internet and see what’s been posted. The best organizers take out the guesswork by advertising full tradeshow and expo information well in advance, letting you decide what seminars and events you’d like to attend, as well as all extra-curricular activities.
A special note: Many tradeshows offer different packages for attendees to pick and choose, mix and match to suit their interests. There may be separate fees for special workshops, and advance registrations may be required. Ensure you’re getting what you think you’re paying for, and you’ve signed up for any extras before the necessary dates.
On the plane or over a cup of coffee before the conference begins, mark off all seminars of interest to you. If you’re traveling with an associate and share common educational goals, think about splitting up, taking notes at different seminars and then having a post-show meeting to get each other up to speed.
Or, if you’re going it alone and know there’s more than one concurrent session you’d like to attend, ask the show staff if CD recordings will be available. Check in your handbooks (if they’re provided) for notes or outlines for sessions. Oftentimes, presenters provide these beforehand for attendees to follow along during the seminar. These can provide sizeable amounts of information, depending on the presenter. Seminar speakers might also be leaders of roundtable discussions and/or vendors on the tradeshow floor. Check your schedule and plan accordingly.
It’s Show Time!
Wearing the most comfortable shoes and clothing suitable to your professional environment, pick up a notebook and pen, grab a bottle of water (just in case it’s not offered) and make your way to your pre-selected seminars. Take plenty of notes, asking questions as necessary (or jot them down if the presenter requests all questions be saved until the end). Presenters typically expect and welcome further discussion and inquiries, so don’t hesitate to approach them at the end of the session if you want to follow up. If they’re too busy to continue the conversation right then, exchange business cards or make an appointment to speak at a later time. Many presenters double-time as vendors on the expo floor, so you might be able to track them down during tradeshow hours.