Whether you're an exhibitor or an attendee at a trade show, there are strategies to implement to get the most out of your experience and even enhance your career.
They're an opportunity for you to not only build contacts, but also enhance your reputation in your industry and learn more about the emerging trends in your field.
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This mission for exhibitors is to build contacts, create leads and promote your business to the trade show audience, so that they understand why your business is a stand-out in the industry.
Here are the best ways to achieve this.
From a presenter standpoint, having clear objectives in your messaging and selecting your talent representatives carefully is key.
"Be strategic in choosing your starting lineup because they will be the face of your brand throughout the show," Kent Montgomery, PepsiCo’s vice president of industry relations based in Plano, Texas, told FOX Business.
Montgomery, responsible for spearheading his team’s presence at the nation’s largest food, beverage and retail trade shows, said that clear communication and effective time management are critical.
"Everyone in attendance should bring a unique skill set to the table and the pre-game huddle is the time to establish roles and responsibilities," he continued.
"To maximize time, make sure everyone on your team understands their individual role and how it ladders up to broader organizational objectives," he added.
For example, Montgomery said that at PepsiCo, staffers there see trade shows as an opportunity to connect with customers and reinforce the company’s dedication to fueling partner growth through innovation.
"Each person complements each other and adds value throughout the show," he said.
Montgomery said the best use of technology while exhibiting at trade shows can raise your presenter positioning.
"Virtual and hybrid conference touch points created during the pandemic are here to stay," Montgomery told FOX Business.
"Most trade shows have customized apps to help attendees identify the most buzz-worthy events to attend."
On the presenter side, apps are a great way to promote your presence and drive traffic to your booth, he recommended.
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"As people embrace new ways to interact with your brand at the booth and from afar, technology is a powerful tool for sharing information and enhancing the customer experience," Montgomery said.
To illustrate this point, Montgomery explained that last year PepsiCo launched a digital booth integration that facilitated contact-less, on-site engagement as well as remote interactions.
"Having tools like this in place allows people to learn how they want; some people prefer face-to-face interaction, others prefer a personalized, digital-only option because of COVID or personal preference," he said.
Having a game-plan and strategic targets is important, but so is flexibility, said Montgomery.
So be sure to capitalize on networking, as this is one of the top reasons that people attend trade shows.
"But finding a way to break through and build meaningful connections can be challenging," he cautioned. "This means leaning into what's happening, identifying new opportunities as they arise and making the most of every interaction."
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Instead of only focusing on new contacts and one-on-one meetings, Montgomery suggested making the most of existing relationships from your broader network, and working with customers and clients to add value to partner engagements or other events they have planned.
Attending a trade show is an important part of learning about what’s new in your industry and to also build contacts and network. Planning is key to achieving the results you want.
Do your due diligence, researching who will be at the event before you walk through the doors, advised Sheila Fischer, president of MFV Expositions based in Norwood, New Jersey.
Fischer, who helms the organization’s planning of large trade shows and expos in franchising, said, "This way, you’ll have a list of booths you want to visit as a starting point. Still, don’t feel beholden to [the list]. Visit and learn from as many exhibitors as possible."
Fischer emphasized attending the conference programming as well; her company’s franchising shows offer educational sessions that often help enrich the conversations people have on the floor.
"Programming like this is designed to help you get the most out of your time, giving you more insight into the industry and also giving you better context to the conversations you have with exhibitors," she explained.
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Also, download the app that will provide a map, attendee list and a schedule.
"Most shows have an app; it sends you daily updates, [it] has an exhibitor list and a map of the show floor — where you can start and where you want to go – so you can stay focused on getting done what you want to get done," Kathryn Emery, a home improvement and lifestyle expert in Orange County, California, who regularly attends trade shows, told FOX Business.
Emery also recommended taking good notes and images — whatever you need to chronicle your time at trade shows.
"Don't depend on a company to give you the information," she advised.
"Take many photos and videos, but don't edit [them] at the show — wait until you get home. Spend your time walking and absorbing, and leave the clerical stuff until after the show is over."
Trade shows are an important component of gaining visibility in your industry, building your contacts and getting your name and talents known.
"The biggest thing to remember at a trade show, whether you are the presenter, attendee or vendor, is that you are selling yourself — and your personal brand," Cindy McGovern, CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting in San Francisco, California, told FOX Business.
McGovern is also the author of the book, "SELL YOURSELF: How to Create, Live and Sell a Powerful Personal Brand."
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Although people move across companies and roles often today, McGovern said one thing that remains constant is the relationship and connections that you have with people you've met.
"It is key that you are creating a strong connection with the people you meet and that they understand your goals, you understand theirs, and how you can help one another," she added.
"Trade shows are an amazing networking opportunity if you approach them that way from the start," she also said.