Created: Thursday, 17 March 2016 12:00 

Ahh, trade shows. Unless you’re an extreme extrovert who enjoys meeting people and shouting over the collective hum of 1000 people talking at the same time, preparing for a trade show is kind of like preparing for a strategic win on the battlefield.

Here are the tips we’ve compiled from our experiences at trade shows and conferences:

  1. Know why you are attending
    This seems incredibly obvious, but sometimes, the more obvious something is, the harder it is to spot. Start with an objective before you leave the office. Are you showcasing a new product at your booth? Are you looking for customers, vendors, agents, new employees, potential partners, investors, or….? What’s the top reason why the individuals you’ve targeted would want to speak with you?
  2. Make a list and check it (more than) twice
    Now that you know why you’re going and who you want to see, make a list. Download a map from the trade show website and map your route through the venue strategically. This will save you time as you try to find your way around the crowded and oftentimes confusing trade show layout. Know who you absolutely can’t leave without speaking to.
  3. If possible, go with at least one other person if you’re an exhibitor
    First, this will give you a much-needed break from the booth from time to time. Second, if you’re an exhibitor on your own, you won’t have time to visit other booths and chat with the people you’d really like to meet. Third, you can play off each other as you chat with the visitors to your booth. For example, if you’re an engineer and your partner is in sales, you can pass a potential client off to him/her if you see someone else who would like to speak with you.
  4. “Two is one, and one is none”
    You’ve probably heard this phrase somewhere and it’s a phrase that the military uses a lot. What it means, fundamentally, is that if you only have one of something, and it breaks/gets lost (as per Murphy’s law), you now have none. It’s impossible to bring multiples of everything, but if there’s something that you absolutely can not live without, make sure you have a backup. For example, if you are giving a presentation at a trade show, you could bring your laptop with the presentation already loaded, bring a USB stick with presentation, and email the organizers with your presentation before the show.
  5. Take care of yourself
    Sounds funny, doesn’t it? However, in the middle of a crowded convention center with hundreds of people waiting to talk to you, you may forget to do things like drink some water, grab a granola bar or even step outside for 5 minutes of quiet. Trade shows aren’t a sprint – they’re a marathon. You have to pace yourself.

Bonus tip: Bring along a few packages of cough drops/throat lozenges. These will give you minty-fresh breath AND soothe your throat after you’ve been talking for a couple of hours/days non-stop. This is especially important if you’re attending a multi-day conference.

We hope that these tips will be helpful to you at your next trade show. We’ll be at the IEEE conference in Dallas, at booth #5030, and if you’re coming to Dallas in May, we hope to see you at our booth!