By Kristen Patel

What tradeshow will your company attend next? If you’re not sure just yet, hang tight: 30 percent of organizations plan to increase their tradeshow budgets when compared to 2017. Your time will come.

And if you know where you’re headed, you shouldn’t just wait patiently for travel plans to hit your desk. Rather, you should use your downtime to strategically ready yourself—and the team—for your next tradeshow experience.

Not sure what I mean? Well, to those of you who have been to a tradeshow before, how satisfied were you? If you’re like the majority of our readers, you probably weren’t satisfied at all. In fact, only 34 percent of attendees considered themselves to be “very satisfied” by the exhibitions that they visited. So we have a simple recommendation for you: Follow these three steps, take the value of your next tradeshow into your hands, and make sure it’s a rewarding and educational experience.

Plan and Prepare

I remember the first time I went to a tradeshow. I was young, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and so certain that the Boston Convention Center really wasn’t that big. But I was wrong. In case you were wondering, the Boston Convention Center is one of the largest exhibition centers in the northeastern United States. But at 516,000 square feet, this convention center is a tiny venue compared to others—especially McCormick Place in Chicago, which, at 2.6 million square feet, is the largest convention center in the world.

However, no matter the size of the convention center you’ll be visiting, it will most likely feel enormous. Speakers will be on one side of the show; the booths you’ll want to be visiting will be at the other. And if you go in with no specific agenda, the tradeshow will be over in no time, and it may feel like you have nothing to show for it. Don’t let that happen to you. Plan ahead for your time at the show.

Although there are many ways for you to prepare, we recommend:

  • Wearing comfortable shoes

  • Packing a sweater or blazer

  • Bringing snacks and a reusable water bottle

  • Planning alarms for when you need to be on the move

  • Mapping out your routes

  • Keeping notes of speakers and sessions you don’t want to miss and questions you’ll want to ask

These may seem like simple steps to take—and they are—but taking these steps can keep you at your best and allow you to make the most of your tradeshow experience.

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Prioritize

This goes hand in hand with your need to plan and prepare. Because it’s possible that your organization won’t be able to send as many employees to the tradeshow as they’d like, you need to be sure that you are using your time at the show to not only achieve your own personal and professional goals, but to support your company’s needs as well.

Does your company want more employees to feel competent and educated with respect to conversion rate optimization? If so, then you’d best go to the session and take thorough notes to share with your colleagues.

Do they want you to learn more about a new marketing automation tool that recently entered the marketplace? Well, for 92 percent of tradeshow attendees, seeing new products is the primary reason for attending, so that wouldn’t necessarily be surprising.

Regardless of whether your company expects you to spend your time at the tradeshow doing research for overall corporate development or for your own development, simply making a list of all the sessions you want to see and the booths you want to visit may not be enough. Considering that the average tradeshow attendee spends only 8.3 hours at the show itself, a detailed and prioritized list—especially when paired with our previous recommendations—will help you make the most of your tradeshow experience.

Get Out There

Regardless of why you’re at the tradeshow, networking is a critical part of the experience. Despite the world of marketing becoming increasingly digital and automated, the opposite seems to be happening with respect to live events. In fact, 48 percent of event attendees say face-to-face interactions are more valuable today than two years ago.

If that continues to be the case, the message is clear: Network, network, network. Whether you’re talking to a potential prospect, a potential business connection, or even just a new friend with shared experiences, networking at these events is truly invaluable.

As conferences like INBOUND and Dreamforce continue to grow in terms of popularity and reputation, we can expect to see increasingly renowned speakers, increasingly popular, well-known, and innovative exhibitors, and increasingly populated events. Don’t let the enormity of these sessions overwhelm you: With a bit of preparation and a willingness to get out there and connect with other like-minded professionals, you’ll find your next tradeshow to be an unforgettable and invaluable experience.

 

Photo by Stefan Lorentz from Pexels

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Kristen Patel

About the author

Kristen Patel is SmartBug Media's CRO Strategist. She joined the team with years of inbound agency experience under her belt, and two Bachelors of Science in International Marketing. While technically based in Maryland, she's often on the move (2018 will bring her to Guatemala, Belize, Mexico... and that's only through February!). Read more articles by Kristen Patel.