Trade show season and retail activities are returning to a new normal, which means it’s a perfect time to talk about how to optimize your trade show experience – whether it’s virtual or in person.
Below is a list of trade show tips and tricks to help you through your next show. Most of these tips apply to all areas of our industry.
Prep is key
Meeting times are limited and can be short. Doing your homework ahead of time can pay off in the long run. Most show organizers send out a version of contact info that includes a website and main show contact. Do your research ahead of time and utilize that information to determine if a manufacturer is a good fit for you to meet with, and how you prioritize them in your schedule. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the manufacturer or show coordinator for any information you may need. Companies are usually happy to send over information prior to the show to help you out. Going into a meeting with a catalog can be a lot easier than trying to exchange information virtually or in person. This gives you time to review the material at your leisure.
Stay on track with an online schedule
Use Google Docs or on your phone’s calendar. Once you get to the show, it can get hectic, and last-minute meetings pile on. Having a quick way to check your schedule is important and making one of these types of online schedules ahead of time means you can’t lose your paperwork. I go to so many shows, and inevitably people always lose the paper that had their schedule, and they are lost. Google Docs is free online, and you can utilize your schedule from your phone, anywhere you are.
Make yourself and your team care packages to kick off the show
I used to have a manager build care packages for trade shows, Black Friday, or other big retail events. I always looked forward to them, they created great momentum and the treats always came in handy. Some ideas for treats to put in the care packages include: personal hand sanitizer, Chapstick, Emergen-C packets, lots of snacks for eating on the go, bottled water, a Visa gift card, extra pens and maybe a personalized item to make it feel extra special. The goal is to give your team the tools to be their best when things get hectic.
Get yourself a cross-body bag or fanny pack
Yes, I said it: a fanny pack. We have so many things to keep on us, and we need our hands. These aren’t meant to carry a lot, but to keep the little things you always need on hand. Utilize your cross-body bag to hold treats from your care bag (see tip #3). You also need somewhere to keep your business cards, hand sanitizer, tissues, Chapstick, pens, compass, etc. There is nothing worse than losing all your pens or running out of business cards when you need them most. Having a little bag that frees up hands for other things makes life a lot easier. Carrying a big purse isn’t realistic, and we can do fanny packs together!
Keep an energy or protein drink on hand
Don’t rely on your hotel room to have coffee or assume that you’ll have enough time to find some before your first meetings. Having a 5-Hour Energy to start your day can be huge!
Establish break times
Trust me, future you will thank me. Make sure you have some little pockets of time between meetings to use the restroom and refresh or go sit for a few minutes. Take several 15-minute breaks throughout the day to stay hydrated, fed and feeling like the best version of yourself. Mark the time off in your calendar, so you don’t overschedule or cut into your break time.
Put your “out of office” notice on your email
This can help you keep from feeling distracted by emails during the day, and your customers will know to expect a delay in response time.
Make sure to pack a back-up change of clothes
For an unexpected dinner, lunch spill or anything else that might require a change of clothes. It’s nice to know you are prepared for social events if they arise.
Bring extra luggage for all of your samples
Catalogs and paperwork add up fast, and often there just isn’t room in regular luggage. Have a special suitcase just for your trade show items like samples and catalogs. This also helps to keep you organized when you get home and unpack. Everything is already sorted and ready to take to the office.
So much time and money go into making these events possible, why not make the most of it? You may be tired at the end of the day but try to go and get social with your industry friends. We don’t get to see each other often — especially not recently — so maximize your time together. Enjoy your next show and I hope to see you there!