Tips for Successful Trade Show Booth Visits

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Trade shows are great events that can give you a unique opportunity to network with hundreds or even thousands of potential new clients and business partners. At the same time, they can also be quite overwhelming. First, there’s the challenge of choosing the right event for your business, and once you get there you’re faced with endless aisles of booths that hold both the promise of potential clients and the threat of competition. There’s only so much time to make the most of your experience, so here are some tips for a great business development adventure:

Make a Plan
Prior to the event, take a look at the exhibitor map online. Prioritize the booths that you need to visit and then map out the most efficient route through the show hall. Prepare a brief pitch (less than a minute) and know the appropriate title of the contact person that you need to meet at each booth. Always leave behind information that the customer can review later, when they aren’t so busy at the show. Remember, this opportunity is often your first contact with the customer and you’ll need to schedule a meeting after the show. Try to get a business card, the name and contact information of your point of contact at each booth, even if that person isn’t there at the time, so that you can follow up later. In planning your schedule, consider people’s energy levels at the beginning of the day versus the end, and what they will be focused on during the first day of the event as opposed to the last day. It might be challenging to hold the interest of someone who’s been standing on their feet for hours and who hasn’t eaten lunch. If possible, reach out to customers prior to the event to schedule on-site meetings.

Think About Your Attire
Exhibit halls can be drafty but can also get very hot with so many people in one space. Dressing in layers can help keep you comfortable. Also, plan to wear your most comfortable pair of professional shoes, since you will be walking and/or standing for long periods of time. It’s probably not the best idea to use this time to break in a new pair of shoes – blisters can occur and will make for a miserable experience. Perhaps you could bring a spare pair of shoes for the walk back to your hotel room. If you typically carry a purse or briefcase, you might consider using a rolling bag or backpack save yourself from aching shoulders by the day’s end.

Stay Healthy
It’s important to get enough sleep and to eat healthy meals before, during and after a trade show. The hours of walking and networking can be exhausting. If you’re attending multiple days of the show, be sure to take meal breaks and get to bed early. When preparing to network, think about how many people’s hands you’ll be shaking and where those hands may have been prior to shaking yours…yuck! Try to wash your hands frequently and keep some hand sanitizer with you. If you attend a networking event with food, try to handle food or drinks with your left hand and use your right hand for handshakes. This keeps your hand clean and dry, while helping to keep you healthy. Note: there are some countries where eating with your left hand is considered offensive. Always know the local customs in foreign countries.

Promote!
Be sure to include trade shows in your marketing strategy. Promote the fact that you’ll be attending on your social media outlets and with your business contacts. While at the show, post photos and related hashtags. Then, after it’s over, write a blog post on your experience.

Above all, have fun and enjoy meeting new people with similar business interests!

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