5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Trade Show Experience

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5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Trade Show Experience

Here at the Paint & Decorating Retailers Association, we absolutely LOVE spring.

Yes, it’s a great time to get outside, tackle some paint projects, and explore the year’s hottest color trends. But even more importantly, the first week of May marks the return of the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas.

As Dan Simon, publisher of Paint & Decorating Retailer Magazine and executive vice president of PDRA, puts it: “The PDRA show at the NHS is the industry’s main event of the year … The show includes paint-store owners, industry manufacturers, buyers, buying groups, reps and distributors all from the paint industry. If you’re looking for new products, this is where you’ll find them.”

But as Jan Niehaus points out in the April issue of PDR Magazine, trade shows can be a big financial investment for small business owners. So instead of simply attending for the sake of attending, she says, it’s important to spend your limited time – and hard-earned dollars – wisely. Here are five tips to make the most of your trade show experience.

Plan ahead. Assuming you’ve already tested the waters and decided a particular trade show is worth attending, get to work laying out your strategy. With only a few days (at most), it’s important to study the agenda and prioritize. Simply showing up and hoping for the best will leave you overwhelmed and, ultimately, unproductive. Some things to consider before arriving are who you want to meet, what you want todreamstime_s_47920048 learn, what you will bring (business cards, comfortable shoes, etc.) and who (if anyone) will go with you to represent your company.

Set goals. There’s no doubt that trade shows can be a great way to generate sales leads, scout the competition, explore new product trends and network with other industry professionals. But given your limited time, you can’t do everything. Whether it’s generating X amount of sales leads, obtaining a particular certification or boosting your social media following, come up with concrete and measurable objectives. Whatever the purpose of your visit, being intentional and deliberate will ensure much more value than trying to do too much.

Master your elevator pitch. As you’ll quickly realize, people at trade shows (whether it be presenters, exhibitors or potential customers) are extremely busy. They are also flooded with information. In the limited time you have with each new contact, it’s important to stand out. The best way to do this is with a memorable elevator pitch – who you are, what you do and what solution you offer. If you have a booth, props and unique displays can help; if not, personality always goes a long way. Think outside the box, and keep your pitch clear, concise and relevant. Important as it is to stand out, however, fight the urge to be everything to everybody; too broad a focus will only be a waste of time.

Get social. Now that you’ve mastered your elevator pitch, get busy and put it to work. You only have a few days, so make the most of them. In addition to meeting as many target contacts as possible, be sure to take advantage of social media. Apps like Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are great tools to not only promote yourself, but to engage with other trade show attendees. Just be sure to find a balance between digital and personal interaction, and cast your net as wide as possible. “Plan to attend as many seminars, presentations, receptions, happy-hour gatherings and tours as your schedule can accommodate,” recommends Niehaus.

Follow up. It may seem obvious, but planning ahead, setting goals, mastering your elevator pitch and networking are all pointless unless you follow up. Immediately upon returning from a trade show, reach out to all of your new contacts and fulfill your commitments. Even if someone didn’t seem like a good fit at the present time, a quick email or a social media connection could plant seeds that pay off down the road. This is also the best time to evaluate your goals, explore potential business strategies and gauge your ROI. Most importantly, take what you learned from your trade show experience – both the good and the bad – and apply it to the next one!

For more information about the 2016 National Hardware Show, visit the NHS website or check out the April issue of Paint & Decorating Retailer Magazine.