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Visiting Trade Show Exhibits: Tips For Maximizing Results

Visiting trade show exhibits is a great way to learn a little bit about your competitors, potential vendors and business partners, but as many events have hundreds of trade show booths on the floor, it’s impossible to visit every one. To get the most out of your time as an attendee, take the time to make a plan of action that will maximize your time with relevant vendors and business associates while minimizing wasted time listening to a sales pitch for a product or service you aren’t likely to need or use.

Plan Ahead: Weed Out The List Of Exhibitors

Most venues are glad to send out an advance notice that lists the exhibitors along with a blurb about what they do. Take some time to look over the list and prioritize. There will be some that you can immediately cross off your list. For the remainder, divide them into two groups: Mandatory and Maybe. When you’re on the floor and navigating the trade show exhibits, focus on visiting your “mandatory” list first. If you have time, you can swing back around and check out the others later in the day or the next day. It’s easy to be lured into booths by eye-catching banner stands or trade show exhibits giving away free coffee or snacks, but try to resist until you’ve visited all of the exhibitors on your mandatory list. If you plan in advance, you’re less likely to be distracted.

Be Prepared To Ask Questions At Trade Show Booths

Walking in and saying, “Tell me about your product,” isn’t a good conversation starter when you’re visiting trade show booths. It’s too general and the staff has already heard this a hundred times by the time you get there. Instead, have a few questions prepared that focus on your company’s specific needs or a problem you company is hoping to overcome. Two or three questions are enough to encourage specific answers that are highly relevant without bogging you down in a conversation that drags on for too long. Be sure to ask about any literature or brochures they have on hand so that you can review the details at your leisure. Don’t forget to hand them your business card so that they can send you some follow-up information. Some trade show exhibits are staffed by employees who will insist that you fill out a lengthy questionnaire; don’t bother. If they really want your business, your business card will be sufficient and take up much less time.

Don’t Outstay Your Welcome

Yes, each exhibitor should give you his or her undivided attention for a few minutes, but don’t let those minutes turn into an hour of brain-picking. The staff will end up clock watching or trying to rush you out of the area if you tie them up for too long. If you’re extremely interested in what their banner stands or table top displays are touting, ask for a follow-up meeting so that you can discuss things in more detail. If the expo floor closes down before the dinner hour, you could even ask to buy them a drink later, lubricating the conversation with a bit of relaxation.

Don’t Be Passive After The Event

Most attendees never bother following up with companies they are interested in because they assume all of the vendors and trade show booth veterans will follow up with them. But this doesn’t always happen; they could have misplaced your business card, fallen behind at the office or simply not gotten back to you before you are ready to sign a contract. Give them the benefit of the doubt and follow up with them about a week later so that your company is still fresh in their minds.

Handled properly, being an event attendee doesn’t have to be a waste of your time. With proper preparation and focus, you can get the most out of your time visiting trade show booths at your next convention or conference.

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