Under one roof

The wonderful thing about trade shows is that you can gather a lot of information about a large variety of products and services in a relatively short space of time without too much effort.

The problem, however, is that the sheer concentration of so many wonderful products can be totally overwhelming and one can walk away exhausted and without answers. So how do you make the most of trade shows?


Most shows have a website where one can glean a lot of useful information beforehand. Not only can you see a list of exhibitors, but you can see floor plans, show opening times and ticket prices as well where the visitors’ parking area is.

Download or print the documents and take the time to go through the list and mark on the floor plan those suppliers you really need to speak to. As you do this, jot down the questions you’d like to ask.

If you are able to pre-register then do this online (or print out and complete the form). This will save you having to go through the process upon your arrival at the show.

At the show

Arrive early (before the crowds) so that you won’t struggle with parking and don’t forget to take your marked-up map and a bag for all the brochures (one with wheels will be highly appreciated towards the end of the day). Also remember to take your own brochures and business cards and wear comfortable shoes.

There are different schools of thought regarding how best to cover the show, but I personally like to see it all. I walk ALL the aisles, making sure I don’t pass any of the marked-up stands without stopping to ask my questions. I prefer to walk down one side and up the other so that I’m not criss-crossing the aisle.

If you arrive at a stand that you have identified as one where you would like to gather more information, take out your question list and ask your questions – jot down the answers as you get them. Most people think they’ll remember the answers, but you’ll be gathering a lot of information on one day and it can we overwhelming. Also ask for brochures as they may contain even more useful information. If the representative is tied up with another customer, don’t wait around, proceed to the next stand and come back to this one when you’re on your way back down the aisle later.

Some more tips:

  • If you’re going to eat at the show, plan to eat either early or late to avoid the long queues.
  • Divide the show into sections and allow a certain amount of time per section or you may find that you haven’t seen all you wanted to see by the end of the day.
  • Don’t get caught by verbose salespeople. I have a standard line I use in response and it works most of the time. I just say: “Please leave me to look at your products. I’ll ask if I need more info”. If they get really pushy then my next line is: “If you aren’t going to leave me to think I won’t know if I like what you’re offering”. Another tactic that works is to act a bit like a dumb blonde and just say, “Oooooh please don’t try to sell me anything, I’m TOTALLY overwhelmed” although I don’t see this working for a burly game-ranger type.
  • If your cash flow allows you to make use of show specials, by all means go ahead. The discounts are usually quite substantial. Make sure you get a written confirmation of the special for your records, especially if you want to confer with co-owners or managers before placing your order. Many companies will honour the show special if you contact them within a day or two after the show.
  • Ask for price lists from everyone. You don’t want to have to go through hours of correspondence later just to get prices.
  • If you are given a business card, jot notes on the back about the products and the promises made.

After the show

Once you return from the show, sort your bag of goodies into three piles. Action items are those you will deal with immediately. Filing items are those you want to keep for a future date – file them away so that you will be able to find them again later. Toss items are those you won’t really ever need – toss them in the bin right away.

Follow up on the contacts you have made. Proceed with ordering the items you need and remember to ask for trade discount!