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11 steps to get the most out of visiting an expo or trade show

Events and trade shows are great for many reasons, no more so than in this digital age. Meeting people and learning from experts face to face is much more appealing to us now that it is less common. But, it’s so easy to pop along to a show and have a great day, but not have anything tangible to show for it when you’re back in the office.

Ultimately, you’re taking time out of your work schedule to visit, so make sure you make the most of your trip out by following these 11 steps:

1. Know what you want to get out of it

Make a plan of what you want to achieve – are you trying to find a new supplier? Make a certain number of new connections through networking, or attend digital marketing masterclasses? The more you know what you want, the more focussed you’ll be and the more likely you’ll come away with what you wanted.

The more thought and effort you put into your visit, the more you will get out of it.

2. Network your socks off

Events are one of the best places to network. You’ll often find people there that don’t attend anything else, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to meet them. Business expo’s usually have networking or speed networking sessions so it’s worth signing up and bringing your business cards. The bigger the business event, the more valuable contacts you might find.

3. Look at everything that’s on offer

Many businesses will release new technologies or systems at events, so they are a fantastic and easily digestible way to stay up to date. There are often seminars looking at what’s round the corner in your sector, the tech that’s going to disrupt marketing, and the latest guidelines on leadership. Take time to look at everything that is going on, to make sure you don’t miss out on learning something new, particularly if you’ve been to the expo before.

4. Don’t: just meet the exhibitors you came to see

Whilst there is plenty to be said for planning everything ahead of time, feel free to deviate from your plan to investigate exhibitors offering similar services that you’re looking for. You might be surprised to find someone that is a much better fit or much cheaper offering exactly what you need. 

You might also come across a product or service that you hadn’t considered for your business, which actually could have a real impact. Be open to what’s in front of you.

5. Make appointments with exhibitors you really want to meet with.

Many events now offer you the chance to make appointments with exhibitors through the event website, so you don’t have to go through the hassle of phoning each company and trying to find the right person. Stands can get very busy at shows, so make yourself a priority by making an appointment in advance – you won’t regret it!

6. Get a ticket in advance

It’s common for events to charge an on-the-door fee, which usually isn’t much but is worth avoiding if you can. You’ll also have access to all the information, newsletters, show guide etc. that is released in the run up to the show, so you can better plan your objections which we discussed earlier.

You might also find you are invited to exclusive networking opportunities or receive special offers on exhibitors’ services via email which you would miss out on by waiting to get your ticket.

7. Don’t: wait to follow up

Strike while the iron is hot. You’ll undoubtedly come back from the event with a bag full of leaflets, business cards and scribbled notes. It’s amazing how quickly those conversations can fade from your memory, so make sure you follow up when you get home – even if it’s just to send a quick ‘great to meet you, let’s arrange a chat’ email. Then, the follow up will be waiting in your inbox, rather than in a bag in a forgotten desk drawer.

8. Bring a friend

There are usually lots of seminars happening at the same time at shows, so bringing a friend, family member or colleague means you can literally be in two places at once. It can also be a long day of learning and speaking to exhibitors, and taking a short lunch break with a friend can re-energise you for the afternoon. 

9. Give yourself enough time

These things always take longer than you anticipate, because there’s usually a seminar you just drop in on, or a connection you make that you want to chat to further. Some stands will get busy too so you might have to wait before speaking to an exhibitor, which will add more time. Of course, if you’ve booked an appointment with them in advance this isn’t a problem!

Allow enough time for unscheduled conversations as well as your planned appointments.

10. Plan the seminars and workshops you want to attend

We’ve mentioned planning a lot so far, but there’s good reason for it! There are lots of keynotes, seminars and usually some masterclasses at events, and you’ll often find that the ones you want to attend overlap. You’ll need to prioritise and make sure you see the ones you really want to.

Many events have a planner on their site once you’ve got your ticket, which means you can add seminars and meetings to your schedule, and access it from anywhere. Some even send you reminders for each meeting and seminar if you download the event app, which is worth looking out for.

11. Don’t: be afraid to speak to exhibitors

We all do it. Walking down an aisle at an event, avoiding making eye contact with exhibitors in case they engage us in conversation and try to sell to us - it’s a very British thing to do! Try to just relax your body language and be open to conversations. You never know, you might find something invaluable or meet your next employee!

If the conversation isn’t what you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to excuse yourself and move on. This is easier if you have meetings booked, as you often have a genuine excuse to leave!

Ready to try your new expo skills out? The biggest business event in the North of England is happening on 17th & 18th March at Manchester Central and is free to attend. So why not get your free ticket to the Northern Business Expo today, and tick off ‘get your ticket in advance'!
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