Startups and established companies alike set up at industry trade shows to showcase their latest products and help boost their business. Trade shows are also an excellent opportunity to build new relationships. As a professional in new business, I attend them to meet new prospects and re-connect with contacts I don’t get to see very often. To attend a trade show, you don’t need to spend the money on a booth if you plan ahead, especially if your customers are other businesses.

The energy at trade shows is sky-high. People are excited to be there, and it’s easy to lose focus when you enter a room of passionate people, eager to talk about their company. It is important to go in with a plan to make sure your time attending an event is a success. Here’s how to optimize your time at trade shows as an attendee:

Pre-register

Most trade shows will charge a same-day registration premium, so sign up early to save money. Another benefit is you’ll be the first to receive latest show alerts and invitations to additional networking events.

Do some recon

Visit the event website and check out the list of exhibitors that you may want to talk to. Do some research ahead of time so you can connect with them and angle your pitch to their needs. (A little minor stalking never hurt anyone!) The event website will also provide insight to speakers, workshops, and attractions.

Book meetings ahead of time

If possible, get exhibitors contact info, and start setting up meetings in advance. If you wait too long to set up meetings you run into the likelihood that they will have no room on their calendar. It’s also a good habit to ask for your contact’s cell phone number in case you need to reach them at the show.

But don’t book too many meetings

It is not a good idea to schedule back-to-back meetings. You do not want to set yourself up for failure. Allow enough time to wind up one meeting and walk to the next, and you shouldn’t have any issues being late. It is important to make a good impression and be on time!

Be open to other opportunities

Don’t just focus on the companies you came to see. Be in the mindset to explore other booths while you are there. You never know what a conversation could turn into. This is your opportunity to maximize your leads.

Take plenty of business cards

You certainly do not want to run out! It is imperative to bring enough business cards to exchange them with everyone you meet at the show.

Exchange cards and take notes

Get their contact info if you don’t already have it. I like to write a quick contact report during or immediately after a valuable conversation, taking note of the things we discussed and needs they may have. This helps for post-event follow-up, which brings me to my last point…

Follow-up in a timely manner

This is where the tenacious rise above the slackers. A few days or a week after the event, start following up with those you spoke with. Reference the things you talked about in the conversation and remind them of the benefits of working together. Keep that conversation going.

If you follow these tips and go in with a plan, you should emerge from the trade show with some great leads that can convert into new business. The other thing you should do after riding the high of a fast-paced trade show weekend? Take a day to rest and recover!

Suzanne Schraml

Suzanne obtained a degree in marketing from University of Arizona and has been working in sales and marketing for more than 13 years. At Davidson Belluso, Suzanne is responsible for growth and client acquisition. Passionate about building relationships and generating new business, Suzanne loves meeting new people. A travel enthusiast, her favorite place to get away is the beach. Adventures with her son fill her weekends with hiking, dining, movie-going, and football throwing.