Optimizing a trade show visit can help you saving time and gathering relevant details about the market.

When you are visiting an exhibition, there are few habits to take. They are recipes to help you saving time, making sure you hit your target and understanding better the market.

Tip 1: anticipate

First of all – before visiting the trade show – it is important that you organize the meetings in advance with the companies you want to see. The high-ranked executives are often very busy with meetings with their existing customers. To meet them you will have to contact them one or two weeks beforehand to set up a specific time slot. Another tip is to print the map of the exhibition and regroup the meetings located in the same halls. Then you will save time (and efforts) on the walking distance.

Some exhibitions charge for entrance. If you register in advance you can sometimes avoid paying fees. You can also ask an exhibiting company you know well to give you a free pass.

Tip 2: observe & listen

There are high chances that you are visiting the exhibition to find new customers / distributors / partners or to gather information about the market.

Your eyes and your ears are two strong assets in those moments. We recommend you to take a deep look at the booths, which are the biggest ones, the most beautiful, are these partners a good fit for you, are they presenting other brands the same way you would like yours to be presented, how many employees do they have, do they differentiate themselves from the competition, do they invest in their booth, are they handling the customers correctly, are they interested in responding to their questions, are they engaging.

In general companies with big booths are the ones investing the more to keep themselves ahead of the competition. They have a sense of marketing expenses to acquire or maintain customers as well as to promote their image. You will need to find those promoting the same values as your company.

Be careful: sometimes what you see is not what you get. Some brands with a lot of animation and many visitors are sometime just throwing away money because they like fancy events. On a day-to-day basis they might neglect some customers. Always double check information!

An exhibition is also an unique occasion to benchmark yourself with your competitors. What are they doing in the market? Do they have new products? What is their price positioning?

Ask questions & listen! This is the best place to have a good feeling of what is going on in the market. Is it growing? Are there new stakeholders? How is it organized? Ask many questions to the maximum of people. Not everybody will tell the same things but after gathering many opinions you will be able to have a good idea of what is going on. Preparing a list of questions in advance is also a good hack.

Tip 3: network, and network hard !

I see too many visitors and attendees not networking at events. You need to go introduce yourself to as many companies as possible. All the companies having complementary products or being in the same industry (media, associations…) are a very good source of information and you will need them one day or another to ask information about a specific market, a specific distributor, or a possible tender. So, go meet them and create a long-lasting relationship!

Tip 4: the basic rules

There are few basic rules, but they are forgotten too many times. Dress up! First impressions last. Have (enough!) business cards and give them. I can’t count how many times I have heard “I do not have business cards anymore”, this is unforgivable. Take the habit to always ask for a business card or at least an email to write to. Nobody will contact you back, no matter how important you are.

Write thank you emails to all the contacts that matter. You are one out of thousands met at a trade show. Differentiate yourself and write an original thank you note.

With those few tips, you will now be more productive and focus your time on the right tasks. Try them for the next trade shows and let us know your comments.

Pic: Brittany Gaiser_Unsplash.com