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Years of attending and exhibiting at trade shows and vendor exhibits have revealed the four most common mistakes made by both attendees and vendors.

Trade shows are usually expensive to attend and can be a major distraction from your day to day activities if not managed properly.

Whether you’re an attendee hoping to learn something valuable or a vendor exhibiting at a trade show, every person should avoid these mistakes to ensure that your time and money are well spent.

Poor planning during event hours

You should have some idea of what you want to accomplish prior to registering. Almost every trade show I’ve attended has provided a complete schedule at least one month in advance of the event, often much sooner. This is your opportunity to pick a subject matter track or comb through the daily agenda and select the sessions you want to attend. I suggest attending a session in every available slot if it is a relatively short trade show (a few days or less).

Even if you struggle to find something relevant, sit through a session. You’re bound to learn something. If nothing strikes you during a session time slot, use that time to get caught up on emails, phone calls or assignments. Alternatively you should schedule a visit with a peer attendee or vendor. Don’t sit idle. Disengaging even a little bit can derail you from the rest of the event, so limit the amount of time you spend away and on your own.

Be present at the event.

Not minding your business

It’s paramount that you plan at least two short breaks per day to follow up on missed phone calls and unanswered emails. You owe it to yourself, your customers and your organization.

Don’t simply rely on your out of office email auto-responder for the duration of the event and don’t use a trade show as an excuse not to respond to people, it’s unprofessional and a poor excuse. If anything, only use your out of office auto-responder to let people know that your response will be delayed, but give them some idea of how long it will take you to get back to them.

Your breaks shouldn’t be more than 20 minutes to at least get a pulse on what you’re missing back at the office.

If you generally maintain a hectic schedule, you might need an hour or more at the end of each day to cover the action items that you couldn’t accomplish from the exhibit hall floor or while in the sessions.

Missed opportunities for one on one time

This is perhaps the most critical objective of any show or event – one on one time with specific suppliers, prospective customers or industry peers. Prior to the event you need to review the list of exhibitors or attendees planned for the event and identify the ones you must see.

Plan intentional visits, by time and location.

I’ve found that during show hours is a tough time to get commitments from people since there is so much happening. Meal times are a great opportunity to lock someone into a meeting. Get in touch with them in advance of the show. If you’re uncertain about how to do this, ask us. We’ll give you some pointers.

Out too late

A great trade show pre-plan can be completely foiled by a big night out on the town. It inevitably happens. A customer or vendor keeps you out too late, buys too many drinks, you indulge too much, etc.

Commit yourself to a reasonably healthy schedule.

Take advantage of an evening meal or outing to build relationships, but don’t over do it. There’s too much at stake in terms of the cost of the show and missed opportunity to sit down with a lot of vendors or customers in a single location.

There are certainly other mistakes you can make at or in preparation for a trade show. Bring comfortable shoes, pack a light jacket as the rooms are often cool, pre-plan transportation between your hotel and the event and bring plenty of business cards.

Maybe you’re not one to necessarily socialize with strangers, but be intentional about taking advantage of the networking events. For some this is just good practice.

Don’t think of trade shows as a boondoggle or an opportunity to miss a few days of work. That’s a waste of your time. Make the most of the opportunities to cover a lot of ground with people that are relevant to your business and often, your success.

Have some specific objectives in terms of things you want to learn, people you want to speak with and information you want to collect.

Once back to the office put those collected business cards and data sheets in a safe place and drop a quick email to each person you met to ensure you have a way to keep track of them.

The things mentioned above have allowed me great success and relationship building at trade shows.

Please take a second and let me know below if you have a specific method for trade show success.

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© Castle Rock Microwave 2021
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