If your last convention experience was more DOA than ROI, take
heart. We asked a number of trade show vets and professionals to
address three questions: What's the best way to prepare for a trade
show? How do you maximize time and energy at the show? And finally,
how do you handle info and contacts after it's all over? Here's a
gallery of timely tips and helpful advice.
Yeah, yeah. You learned the Boy Scout motto 20 (or was it 30?)
years ago. Now's the time to dust it off for use. Here's how.
Start yesterday. "We begin preparing for next year's show
after this year's show is over," says Kevin Donnellan,
communications manager for Cold Stone Creamery, a 500-store ice
cream retailer. "We analyze the good, bad, and ugly of what
happened and provide solutions while it's fresh on our minds. Did
we have the right manpower? Can we get a better space on the show
floor? Getting more buzz at a trade show is always a result of
Erin Foster, Kodak's worldwide director of public relations and
events, says the company does a "recon" before every show. "We want
to know who's registered," she says, "what products are showcased,
what media has attended in the past."
Go With a Goal. Don't spend money on trade shows just
because rivals are going or because they are the "premier" shows
for your industry, warns Mark McClennan, a director for Schwartz
Communications. "Are you there to meet prospects, raise visibility,
position the company as a thought leader?" he says. "Then customize
everything you do to reach that goal."
Work the Web. Dan Cole, vice president of sales and business
development for the giant Consumer Electronics Show held in Las
Vegas each January, says preparation should include a visit to the
show's website, where you'll usually find preregistration forms,
hotels offering discounts and shuttle buses to the hall, lists of
exhibitors, a schedule of speakers and conferences, and - don't
miss this - a map of the show floor. Properly used, Cole says, a
map can save you hours of frustrated wandering.
Get a Flying Start. Schwartz's McClennan, who advises dozens
of clients about squeezing the most out of trade shows, says the
real work starts on the plane. "Don't sit with your own people on
the flight out," McClennan says. "If it's a big show, odds are
someone sitting near you is going. You can network with them, maybe
identify a new prospect."