Getting the Most Out of Attending a Tradeshow
I am a firm believer of this popular quote: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. These 5Ps ring true for an organiser, an exhibitor/sponsor and a trade visitor. If you do not plan well, the mission is highly likely to fail, under-perform or under-deliver.
From a trade visitor's standpoint, it is of utmost importance to plan well ahead when visiting a tradeshow to make the most of the potential business and networking opportunities. For an exhibition/conference organiser, planning and preparation starts at least 18 months before the event day. I would argue that similarly, a trade visitor should plan three to four months ahead of the intended trip to the tradeshow.
For a start, choose the right tradeshow to visit, preferably one with a strong track record and a strong presence of exhibiting companies. Once the right tradeshow is identified, planning to visit it should then begin. I would also encourage you not to confine yourself to just show floor visits. To have a fruitful and rewarding trip, look beyond the conventional practice of visiting exhibitor-companies on the show floor and visit the exhibitor-companies’ offices or factories as well, as this will allow you to further understand its operations and set-up.
Plan your visit
Set measureable objectives to justify the trip. From the objectives set, create a “booth stop” list by identifying a list of exhibitor-companies to visit. Do some research to see which companies offer current products and services that meet your business requirements. This will help you narrow down which exhibitors to visit on the show floor to be more productive. Do make up a list of second-tier exhibitor-companies which you can call on if time permits.
Once the list is confirmed, do research the persons you should be meeting at each booth. If possible, pre-book appointments with your first-tier companies to save you valuable time and effort.
With all the ground work done, do look out for the opening of the event registration portal and check out essential information such as accommodation, registration fee as well as incentives for early registrants. Some tradeshows may impose a registration fee but if you register early before a stipulated date, the fee is waived. Some tradeshows may even offer an access pass to a well-managed trade visitors’ lounge. This is a welcome privilege for you to rest your feet while you relook at the day's agenda.
You might also want to register as a buyer with the organiser’s business matching platform. Many tradeshows today such as the Singapore International Water Week, World Cities Summit and CleanEnviro Summit have this valuable platform to facilitate business interactions and networking.
Do remember to make hotel accommodation arrangements early. Stay at a hotel or an apartment near the show ground. This will help you save on ground transport expenses and time, as well as play a part in reducing the carbon footprint of the event. If you are traveling with two or three colleagues, it could be more cost effective to share an apartment. Alternatively, you can stay at the event’s official hotels as these usually offer discounts for attendees and the organiser would usually arrange for free shuttle bus services to and from the event venue.
When on the show floor
Whilst visiting exhibiting companies on the show floor, one suggestion is to stop at (i) trade publication booths – this will allow you to perhaps sign up for free subscriptions which serve as useful industry information to your business, (ii) trade association booths – this will allow you to secure a list of the associations’ members to build your business network.
Check if there are free business forums you can attend. These platforms could give leads on upcoming projects and business opportunities organised by the event organisers. Some are country-specific and could spell new opportunities for the expansion of your business. Again, tradeshows like Singapore International Water Week, World Cities Summit and CleanEnviro Summit have very established and well-attended business forums.
To add value to your visit, it is also useful to sign up to attend a conference to gain industry knowledge, learn best practices and failures. As a conference delegate, you would also be invited to networking events. Make sure to attend these sessions as they provide great opportunities to cultivate and forge business relationships.
It is also a good idea to download the event app and make use of it to access show and conference information. I would urge you to bring along a spare mobile phone charging device. Whilst most tradeshows would have mobile charging stations, it is always wise to bring along a personal mobile phone charging pack to save the time and effort of having to return to the charging stations or waiting in queue.
Last but not least, take some time off your business schedule to enjoy the host city. To discover the many exciting and interesting places in Singapore, check this link.
On returning back to office
Do a trip report to assess the return on your trip and institutionalise the pre-trip processes as a checklist to get the most out of your next trip.