The greatest opportunity for contractors to learn about new products, services, and methods that can give their company an edge is at trade shows. To make a trade show an opportunity show, you should follow these 10 steps.
1. Identify Associated Seminars of Interest
Usually, any trade show has accompanying seminars. This is where the latest and greatest best practices and products will be presented. Look over the seminars to see if any are of particular interest and block out the time they are held.
2. Look for Quality Information in Seminars
Sometimes the best speakers deliver the least information. They are great at entertainment, but light on substance. Conversely, some of the most powerful information is poorly delivered. Often, this is when a fellow contractor is speaking. Few contractors are trained on giving presentations, so be prepared to endure bad slide decks and rambling from time to time for information from someone who has been there, done it, and collected a closet full of t-shirts. Just like you should never judge a book by its cover, do not judge the quality of a seminar by the slickness of the presenter.
3. Do Not Hesitate to Walk Out
Sometimes you pick the wrong seminar. Maybe, it’s not what you expected. Maybe it doesn’t fit your company and circumstances. Whatever the reason, do not sit through something that wastes your time. Quietly leave and find something better suited. Do not worry about offending the speaker. They wear big boy pants. They can handle it if you get up and leave.
4. Target Your Most Attractive Exhibitors
For the trade show, get ahold of an exhibitor list in advance. Identify who you really want to talk with and prioritize the list. It might an exhibitor with a new product or service. It might be a chance to talk with someone from the executive suite of a particular manufacturer.
Once you have your list of more important exhibitors, hit them in order of priority for smaller shows. For larger shows, map out the most efficient route.
5. Set Appointments
If there is someone you really want to talk with and you believe the person will be attending an upcoming show, reach out in advance and ask for a meeting. It may only be 15 minutes at the exhibitor’s booth, but some advance planning will ensure you reach the people you want. Schedules fill up. If you wait until the day of the show, a busy executive might not have an opening.
6. Be Ready for the Unexpected
Part of the reason for attending a trade show is to learn about new things. The exhibitors at the show are making significant investments to be there because they believe they have products or services that are so compelling and can make such a difference in your business that you would buy them if you only knew about them. Unfortunately, a lot of contractors march through shows with their eyes straight ahead, ignoring all exhibitors, because they might try to sell them something. If that is your attitude, you are better off staying home. The whole point of the show is to learn new things.
7. Ask the Right Questions
If you approach a trade show booth the right way, you can turn it into a mini-seminar. No one knows more about the exhibitor’s niche in the market. This is your chance to learn from him. Think through the questions you want to ask in advance. Ask, how can you help me make more money? Or, ask how the exhibitor can make your life easier. Ask distributors and manufacturers what trends they are seeing in the marketplace. Ask about the most innovative practices they see contractors deploying. Remember, these guys talk with a lot of contractors and they can be fountains of knowledge.
8. Bring Business Cards
While more and more shows are using QR codes and other means of scanning badges, it is still a good idea to carry business cards, lots of business cards. You never know when you might run into a contractor from another state who faced and solved your most perplexing problem. You might run into a guy who has a valued employee relocating to your community. In all cases, you want to collect and hand out business cards for follow up.
9. Sit with People You Do Not Know
When you get your overpriced concession stand lunch, find a table with people you do not know and ask if it’s okay for you to join them. Meet everyone. Ask about their businesses. Make connections.
10. Prepare a Follow Up List
After the show, make a list of things you want to do as a result of the show. Identify the single most important or the single easiest to accomplish. Work on that item until it is done before worrying about the rest. Then work on the next most important item. Collecting information at a trade show can make you smarter. Taking action is what makes you better.
Want more insight on how to improve your business? Join the Service Roundtable. It’s only $50 a month and delivers more value for the dollar than any other group or program. Ask about their free Success Days, which are held around the country to learn more about their best practices group as part of a day long seminar. Call 877/262-3341 for more information or visit www.ServiceRoundtable.com.