Places to go, people to see, but so little time? You’re not alone. The typical buyer at a trade show is often overwhelmed by the hectic atmosphere, crowded booths, and unlimited array of new products, but often returns home with little more than a pocketful of business cards.
Experts say it’s important to understand that getting the most out of a trade show is a learned skill. Therefore, it’s worth taking the time to pick up some tricks of the trade, which means firstly having a strategy weeks, if not months, before you even arrive on the trade show floor. The secret for success is to spend your time wisely and prioritize tasks and meetings.
Ideally, buyers should start preparing for a trade show two months before, in order to optimize time at the show and be able to pre-book as many key meetings as possible. Successful companies will normally prepare for the next trade show right after the end of the last one, based on lessons learned and an analysis of strengths and weaknesses of their most recent performance.
Going into the show, it’s important to have a strategy that enables you to stay focused on your product flow, your customers’ needs back home, and your bottom line. It’s critical to set concrete goals and have specific descriptions of what you want to find at the show. You can then translate your “A” list into a ranking of the vendors you want to see. It’s also smart to draw up a “B” list, because companies you don’t normally deal with can open your eyes to innovation and new ways to approach problems.
One of the biggest mistakes buyers make is doing the traditional walk-through of the site. This can waste hours. Instead, buyers need to move quickly from one key supplier to the next. They can do this by using the show floor map to plot out a route that enables them to see the greatest number of vendors in the least amount of time. At the end of the day, buyers need to be disciplined and focused.
And while attending seminars might mean time away from the show floor and your suppliers, they can be important to your bottom line. Trade shows are not just about buying anymore. Attendees are often looking to solve technical problems, and seminars can help them stay on top of market trends and new technologies.
Experienced trade show buyers also advise: avoid overbuying, especially if your products are seasonal or you have limited room for inventory; cluster appointments by location to reduce walking time; allow time to discover unexpected new products or for random encounters; and finally, be proactive about negotiating vendor terms, as many can be flexible about price or terms.