With another major conference just a week around the corner, we sat reminiscing about the number of trade shows the team have organised or attended. Collectively, we realised it’s hundreds!
One of the most common questions we’re asked is, “what value to do you get out of trade shows?”. And the simple answer to that is, “you get out, what you put in.”
Whether you’re organising, attending or supporting a trade show in some capacity, it’s important you have clear goals or objectives – and a plan in place to achieve them. It still surprises us how many people attend without giving any thought to this, then complain they didn’t get any benefit from them.
With major conferences combining hundreds of presentations, thousands of stands and tens of thousands of attendees, there are some basics you need to consider. While it’s not an exhaustive list, here’s some of the key considerations we’ve compiled from our own personal experience and that of our colleagues.
Why are you going?
Are you there to learn about the latest technology or market developments, sell a product or service, network with clients or forge new networks and relationships? Consider what your purpose is for going and which aspect(s) of the conference you need to attend - from the technical programme through to the trade show and evening networking events.
Have you planned your visit?
Once you have a clear goal in mind, plan your visit. These days, most conferences make it easy by providing online conference programmes and trade show maps/attendees that provide all the information you need. Several now have dedicated apps that you can download and create a tailored schedule – so there’s no excuse!
Take time to read them in advance and create a clear schedule for your week ahead. This includes arranging your meetings in advance as everyone is in the same boat – they are (should be!) busy so even an informal coffee should be scheduled in.
And for those of you travelling from abroad, remember to organise any visas otherwise all your planning will have been in vain!
Have you considered the logistics?
“The traffic was terrible”, “I couldn’t get parked”, “registration queues were huge”. Large conferences are often the equivalent size of a small town, so don’t complain if it’s busy or the coffee queue is too long. The organisers make additional provisions for these numbers, but you need to plan too:
Have you packed the essentials?
Once you’re at the conference, there are limited facilities so don’t forget the essentials. Registration and pass, money, mobile phone and charger, schedule/maps, business cards, pain killers, plasters and a spare pair of comfy shoes (if you can). All trade show veterans know……it’s all about the shoes!
…..and the extras?
Social media (don’t groan) can be a fantastic tool if used effectively so consider using this to your advantage:
Don’t let all your effort go to waste. Follow up after you visit, particularly while memories (and energy levels) are still fresh. Alongside lack of planning, this is one of the key mistakes people make…..which is crazy if you ask us!
Above all, make the most of your week including what there is to do/see. There any many social events taking place across the host city, so grab another coffee and fuel up to take advantage of them. We forget how fortunate we are to attend these, so why not make an extra special effort this year and find out what there is to do. You may just surprise yourself and try something new!
Footnote: clearly we’ve written this with SPE Offshore Europe in mind, so all the links are to websites and information you may find useful.