The value of trade shows isn’t reserved for those exhibiting a booth – vendor attendance involves far more than a powerful add to one’s marketing mix. As event marketers and event industry leaders can attest, trade shows provide great opportunities to a many segments and personas. From venue owners and staff to labor, vendors and sponsors to speakers, trade shows provide their participants continuing education, networking, community building, and more.
Of all these participant groups, however, we’re most excited for you — the attendees. We love being a part of the informative, enjoyable environment of a conference, meeting new people and sharing in the experiences available.
Just what kinds of experiences can one attend at a conference? We’re so glad you asked!
While Cindy Fish’s article on the benefits of attending trade shows targets the travel industry in specific, her points apply to far more than just this industry. Her list of four key points opens with a discussion of the educational opportunities trade shows offer their attendees.
“Each trade show has a myriad of educational sessions that help you explore and learn more about [your industry] and business practices.” And you can take advantage of more than breakout educational sessions when looking for some wisdom—trade shows boast keynote speakers, addresses by industry leaders, and other high-profile, high-value events like workshops and upskilling seminars.
Fish also reminds us that attending a trade show is also hugely useful for networking and building relationships—even before we think about the financial side of those relationships. We learn from those who do what we do, so check out your trade show’s schedule for “activities and events outside of the educational sessions aimed at socializing with other attendees.”
Get to know people in these contexts. Ask questions and find common ground—you’ll never know when serendipity might place you at the same table as a professional who shares your job title, at an organization across the country (or world). “Make sure to gather business cards and make specific follow-up plans,” Fish writes.
Come Prepared (to Make Friends)
Shari Waters has some tips that go beyond where to go at trade shows. She advises the attendee from pre-show planning to post-show wrap-up, with suggestions ranging from straightforward wardrobe tips to the best things to think about in the aftermath.
In terms of the simpler advice, Waters’ best point isn’t just clothing-related: it’s a reminder that you’re going to want room for “bringing back more than you take.” What kind of space will you need in your suitcase? Enough for “vendor literature, freebies, and product samples.” You’ll be collecting a lot of all of these—enough that Waters recommends you ask if vendors can mail some of them to you rather than physically carrying them around.
Once you’re at the show, “have a pen and notebook ready for notes and use business cards to jot down information on the back.” For attendees, educational information is everywhere, as are networking opportunities—just like Fish described, though Waters wants to remind us that these opportunities aren’t just limited to the event-style sessions and addresses Fish discusses.
Now, as exciting as these activities and opportunities are, you might also feel a bit of pressure in reading about them. It’s a lot to do, a lot you don’t want to miss out on—and what if your approach isn’t perfect?
A First Time for Everything
Research shows that if this is your first time at a trade show, you are in good company. Over 50% of tradeshow attendees and exhibitors are in the event for the first time, Sage reports. Remember this the next time it seems like everyone knows what they’re doing—like you, they’re probably excited, prepared, but learning.
It’s also great news because it means you can “get a good look at the new faces in the game.” The celebrated networking opportunities of trade shows spring from this influx of new faces at every show. So if a potential trade show attendance would be your first, great! You’ll fit right in.
We see trade shows as a way to meet professionals who share our interests and field. We see them as a way to increase our visibility and our knowledge base. We prize the opportunities to network and establish connections. And above all, we celebrate the opportunity to make the experience fun, educational, and valuable for you, the attendee!
See You There!
By the way, we certainly practice what we preach. You can find TruScribe locally this month here in Madison WI at the Madison InBusiness Expo & Conference. Stay tuned to our social channels for updates as we greet over 1000 business professionals converging on Dane County just a few short weeks from now.
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