As retailers, we frequent trade shows to discover new products, get exclusive deals, and meet with favorite suppliers. However, many trade shows are also a great resource for education and development. Between seminars, workshops, one-on-ones, buying tours, and networking events there are so many opportunities to grow your business outside of writing orders. Though these events and opportunities are a highly valuable aspect of trade shows, they are often overlooked or underutilized. As retailers, taking time away from your store to attend an event is a big deal. Follow these tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of your investment.
Almost every show has some type of networking break. The easy thing to do during this time is to regroup with your co-workers, catch up on emails, or otherwise stick to yourself. But by taking these organized breaks for granted, you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity. Before the show, think about challenges you’re facing with your business and areas where you would like to improve. Make a point to introduce yourself to a few people while waiting at the coffee stand and ask about their business. Likely, they’ll be able to offer some advice or at least another perspective.
On Your Terms
Many trade shows have educational sessions or speakers throughout the show. Log on to your show’s website or mobile app beforehand to see who is speaking, what their expertise is, and when they are scheduled. If there are any topics or experts you are particularly interested in, reach out to them directly, or to the show organizers to set up a meeting. Most attendees will try to talk with the speaker right after their session. Instead of battling a crowd and having a rushed interaction, plan ahead so you can be sure to have all your questions answered and build a memorable connection.
Whether it’s the never-ending stream of emails or phone calls from employees, it’s hard to put away the phone during trade shows. But after all, you are paying for in-person interactions with suppliers, experts, and other retailers. While it is unrealistic to expect to unplug for the entire event, make sure to put the phone away for seminars, face-to-face meetings, and workshops. You’ll better absorb information and have more opportunity to connect with those around you.
Maybe you’re a trade show veteran and have met many friendly faces along the way. Maybe you’ve chatted with other store owners in a Facebook group. Maybe you have a mutual friend. Whatever the case, make a point of taking the time to at least say “hi” to your connections, if not arrange a coffee break. Building new contacts is a crucial aspect of trade shows, but those relationships won’t survive without a little legwork.
Make Time for Yourself
Making important buying decisions is exhausting. Networking and venturing out of your comfort zone is exhausting. Walking a trade show’s floor and trying to take in every exhibitor and product is exhausting. Make sure to carve out some time for yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Keep your stamina up and stress levels down by taking time each day to unwind and get enough sleep. It’s easy to neglect your own well being, but if you don’t make time for yourself now, it’ll only catch up to you later.