In an earlier post I listed some tips for tech guys to get the most out of their trade show experience. One of the readers mentioned that it would be good to list a similar set of tips for customers – so here is how you (the customer) can reap the rewards that most don’t realize a trade show has to offer. You might notice there are many similarities, that’s because suppliers and customers are there for the same basic reasons - to meet each other and learn.
1) Plan. Know what presentations you want to attend, what booths you want to visit, and which suppliers you want to meet up with. Set a time to meet in advance, so there isn’t a last minute scramble to match schedules.
2) Listen. Get to the tech sessions and learn. When you are interested, meet the speaker and ask questions after the session. This will be better for you than any published article you’d read throughout the year.
3) Write. Don’t forget paper and a pen! I admit, I’ve been in the situation many times where I’ve searched for scrap paper or a brochure to jot notes on. You should note all the things you want to follow-up on in one place so nothing gets lost. Along the same lines, don’t forget your business cards!
4) Speak. Present a paper at the trade show or chair a session. This puts you in front of all the suppliers eager to help you with your application. If they see a solution to your issues, they will find you. You’ll be amazed at Q&A time when the crowd collectively tries to find answers to the questions you pose.
5) Invite. Ask a vendor to join you for lunch or dinner. Most suppliers would love the chance to understand you on a personal level. This will give you the chance to talk about broader supply, technical, and social issues that you may have never set up a meeting to talk about. This will help your supplier realize how they can best support you.
5) Enjoy. If you have some vacation time and the trade show is in a location you’ve never been, take a few days to relax after the show. The travel plans are as simple as the initial work travel, but you have the advantage of enjoying the perks of travel - like seeing new places - without any extra flight.