Sage Advice UK

Top tips for getting the most from trade shows

If you’re going to spend your valuable time at a trade show it’s important to make sure you are making the most of it. Here are the top 12 things attendees do to make their visit successful.

1. Plan who you are going to see

Visitors who know where they are going at the show save time, money and energy. Often they have a list of suppliers and stand numbers written down on their note pad. They tend to look out for new suppliers on the way to seeing the ones they need to see (or if they have time afterwards). A notepad and pen works well for planning and some trade shows have an app that makes planning even easier for tech savvy visitors who have smart phones and iPads.

2. Know what you need

This might sound obvious, but if, for example, you are attending the show to buy stock for your business it is worth making a note of what stocks you are low on. Be sure to note best-selling products or most used items that you are low on. Focus on stocking up on items that are going to grow your sales. Best sellers can be as important as new products.

3. Set your budget

In this climate we all need to keep an eye on our stock and not over order on things we don’t need, but keep stock of products that sell well. To keep an eye on this, it’s worth setting a budget for each department in your business e.g. cards, gifts, jewellery, etc., if you are a gift shop. Make sure your budget matches what sells well. If you sell more cards than gifts, allocate more to the card budget. Stick to your plan when at the show. You can almost always top up orders when you get back to your business.

4. Wear sensible shoes

High heels may look fab, but at large shows at complexes like the NEC in Birmingham, where there are miles to cover, you will suffer for your vanity. Take two pairs of comfortable shoes and alternate them each day for maximum comfort.

5. Bring a wheelie bag

Brochures soon stack up when you are on your way round the shows and a trolley bag can really take the strain off your arms but consider using wheeled hand luggage instead and you will be carrying your brochures in style.

6. Grab the show guide and bookmark the show’s website

Sometimes you can pick up ideas from browsing the guide or the show’s site that can help you find a new supplier worth having. It’s a lot easier than walking aisle after aisle in the hope of finding that elusive new best seller. Often the show guide sent prior to the show is smaller and lighter than the ones handed out on site so be sure to pack your copy.

7. Drink water

Bottled water is a must at shows. The halls can be warm and dry, we’re all talking a lot and moving a lot. If you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated. Your concentration slips massively when you are not hydrated and you need to be on your game. Sip water throughout the day. I get through 2-3 litres of water a day on my stand. Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks. Both can lead to burn out and get in the way of you being at your best.

8. Watch what you eat

When I worked in the film industry, we avoided feeding the camera crews meat for lunch as it slowed them down. If you want to avoid tiredness and aren’t veggie, save meat for your evening meal. Sugary snacks and drinks will also cause your blood sugar to spike and crash. Unsalted nuts are a great way of avoiding hunger pangs and try to eat salads (think green) during the day.

9. Get a map and know your route

Many shows are spread over several halls that can inter-connect in unusual ways. Knowing your way around can save you lots of wasted energy. Get the space clear in your mind before you go and grab a map if you struggle with doing this.

10. Bring your business cards

One of the top things visitors leave on their kitchen table at home is their business card. Make sure you remember yours and that it has your phone number, email, name, position and business address on it. Having a typed up sheet with details of who owns the business, who takes care of accounts payable and two referees can also save you time when opening new accounts.

11. Pre-register for the show

It’s free to pre-register for almost all trade shows these days. If you do this you will often avoid having to pay the entry fee on the day. Remember to bring your badge or your registration details to pick up your badge at the show.

12. Book accommodation in advance

Big trade shows often lead to a large shortage of accommodation available, so it’s worth booking many months in advance. If you are late to find somewhere, look in the centre of the neighbouring city and commute to the venue each day. Remember to pack your travel documents and reservation details.