Give Yourself Time. "If it's a three- or four-day show, don't just jet in for a couple of meetings and jet out," says John Daniels, worldwide marketing manager for Texas Instruments' digital camera solutions group. "Turn off the PDA, the cell, and the Blackberry, and really try to be there at the show. Don't just make a run around the exhibit hall 45 minutes before you head to the airport."
Put Your Best Booth Forward. Orlando Rodrigues, who attends about 20 shows a year as vice president of marketing for I-Flow Corporation, maker of a post-surgical pain relief device, believes it's important to establish clear rules and responsibilities for team members working a show. "Be sure everyone takes their booth time seriously," he says. "You don't want people eating or chewing gum when they're on duty. And if they're supposed to start work at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m., they shouldn't be out partying until 4 in the morning."
Don't Just Talk, Listen. The hundreds of people trooping past your exhibits each day can serve as extra eyes and ears, according to Kodak's Erin Foster. "We want our people to sell our solution, but they're also responsible for getting information," Foster says. "Everyone has questions to ask. 'What really interests you out there? Who's got the breakthrough technology?' "
See, Borrow, Improve. Cold Stone's Kevin Donnelan urges showgoers to bring an open mind for gathering new ideas. "Get out there on the floor and see who's doing it right," he counsels. "See what you like, tweak it, and make it your own. That's especially important with giveaway items. You want people saying, 'Hey, where did you get that?' "
Be a Clever Card Carrier. "It's great to hand out your card, but you need to do more," says Mark McClennan of Schwartz Communications. "Put your booth number on the front. And when you get someone's card, write a key message on the back: 'He liked the scalability,' or 'Time to market resonated.' That becomes another selling tool for the salespeople back home."
Debrief Daily. "As soon as the hall closes each day, we do a team huddle," Foster says. "We want to know what people heard that day." And on the flight home, says CES' Cole, do a trip report - even if the company doesn't require it. "Don't trust your memory. Write those notes. If you talk to 50 to 100 people over three or four days, it can get very confusing."