Going to tradeshows is an important part of business and professional development for most industries, but especially for eye care professionals. Tradeshows and conferences offer continuing education, information on new technology and procedures, and more product information that your brain can hold. With an overwhelming amount of material and demonstrations to soak up, how do you make the most of it?
We’re pretty qualified as optical industry globe-trotters. Here are our tips on how to make the most of your next trade show.
Register in Advance.
On-site registration can be very expensive. Many tradeshows offer heavy discounts for attendees to register early. In addition, check out the exhibitor list and look for companies you already work with, or who you are thinking about working with. They often receive complimentary registration codes to share with their customers and you might even be able to attend for free!
Stay at the Event Hotel.
Although it’s usually a little more expensive, staying at the same hotel as the event has its benefits. Often all the vendors and other attendees will be staying there and can be found mingling in the lounge for cocktails and snacks. It’s a great place to network and meet new people in the industry.
Make a Plan.
Going to a tradeshow with no plan is the worst thing you can do. Download a list of show exhibitors ahead of time from the event website and arrive early to grab a map at registration. Many of these shows are massive and you’ll want to try and set up specific meeting times with vendors you’re considering to work with or want to learn more about. Walking the tradeshow floor aimlessly can be overwhelming, exhausting, and ineffective.
Know Your Budget.
Planning to find a new frame line to carry? Looking for a new piece of diagnostic equipment? Need a new company to help with your website, social media, and marketing? Know your budget and be prepared to make purchases at the tradeshow. Many vendors have been authorized to offer deep discounts as “show specials.” These discounts are usually only offered during the time of the tradeshow. When the show ends, so do the special discounts. Don’t miss out by being prepared to buy if they are available.
Dress the Part.
You don’t have to go crazy, but people will take you more seriously if you’re dressed professionally. Dress slacks and a nice shirt or blouse are perfectly acceptable. Leave the flip-flops, tank tops, and shorts for after the tradeshow. Equally important, don’t forget to bring and wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be doing a lot of walking at larger tradeshows.
Bring Business Cards.
Grab a huge stack to bring. Just when you think you’ve brought too many, grab another handful. You can never have enough business cards at a tradeshow. The worst thing at a tradeshow is to run out of business cards. Keep them with you at all times. You never know when you’re going to meet an important contact.
Pick up Business cards.
In addition to passing out your own business cards, make sure you get them from other people you talk to as well. Once you have their card, you can follow up with them as soon as you’re ready.
Tradeshows are Work.
It’s easy to get sucked into the late night dinners, cocktail receptions, and other exciting events that usually accompany tradeshows. However, don’t forget you’re attending the tradeshow to accomplish specific work objectives and therefore, you’re working. After a long day of attending a show, if you’re tired, go to bed. That way you can wake up early the next day and continue accomplishing your work goals you planned for the tradeshow.
What works best for you? Do you have any preferred gear or methods that you use to get the most out of your tradeshow experiences?