Top 5 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Trade Show Attendance

12.20.2019 Articles
By Briagenn Adams

Owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) attracts the world’s most innovative business pioneers and inventive thought leaders. 2020’s trade show will be held in Las Vegas from January 7-10, and it’s expected to assemble more than 175,000 attendees, including more than 61,000 people from outside the U.S. For the past 50 years, CES has set the global stage for next-generation innovations to be introduced to the marketplace, and it’s a perfect setting for like-minded industry professionals to meet, connect, and develop long-lasting business relationships.

As we enter the last weeks of pre-show planning, are you prepared to make the most of your trade show attendance?

Attending a trade show can be an extremely rewarding experience both personally and professionally, and many people walk away from a trade show like CES with hundreds of new business contacts and potential leads. That said, it’s essential to plan ahead in order to make the most of your trade show attendance. As CES attendee veterans for more than 15 years, the BDS Marketing team has learned a few tried-and-true trade show survival tips. Whether you’re attending CES in 2020, or you’re planning for a trade show that’s further down the line, here are the top 5 ways you can wow your fellow attendees, both on and off the trade show floor:

1) Plan, Prepare & Plan Some More

When planning and preparing for a trade show, no detail is too small or insignificant to pay attention to. Book flights and hotels well in advance to secure a good rate for you and your coworkers. Since trade shows like CES garner hundreds of thousands of attendees, the city you’re traveling to will likely be overwhelmed with visitors, and you don’t want to be left scrambling for a place to stay at the last minute. Thankfully, major trade shows like CES often help with “hotel booking” sites that are exclusive to trade show attendees. If your company will have a booth at the trade show, pay attention to application submission deadlines and be sure to order your booth materials well in advance to allow for shipping delays and possible quality issues. Also, be sure to book restaurant reservations for the team, as well! Beyond business, trade shows are a great way to get out of the office, bond with your coworkers, and explore a new city together!

If you’re planning to release a new product or make another exciting announcement at the trade show, make sure to print plenty of product sheets and publish a press release that you can provide to booth visitors. Yes – digital promotion is great – but there’s nothing like an old-fashioned hard copy that your visitors can pick up and take with them. You should also make sure everyone on your team has plenty of business cards to exchange with other event attendees. It’s a good idea to average about 50 per day, so for a 3-day trade show, pack at least 150. It’s also important to understand exactly why you’re attending a trade show – as in, what’s the ultimate goal? Are you looking to sell something? Or do you simply want to meet fellow industry professionals? Identifying the “why” behind your trade show attendance will help you create a plan of attack that will keep you organized and on-track for the trade show’s duration.

2) Schedule Booth Meetings

Trade shows are busy and loud, and it can be difficult to have meaningful conversations unless you schedule booth meetings beforehand. As soon as the trade show exhibitor list is released, sit down at your computer and make a list of the top companies that you’d like to meet with while you’re there. Plan to visit about 15 booths per day, which would equal 45 booths total for a 3-day trade show. 45 might sound like a lot, but CES is the largest tech show on the planet with more than 4,500 exhibiting companies, so 45 is really just a small drop in the CES trade show bucket. After you have decided which 45 companies you’d most like to visit, do a little research to see if they’re promoting anything specific at the trade show – blogs, press releases, and social media posts are a few great places to check out! Then, send a personal, tailored email to the Chief Marketing Officer at each company, asking to schedule a booth meeting during CES.

It’s a good idea to always give yourself about 30 minutes between each booth meeting to allow for the walking time it’ll take you to get from booth to booth. CES spans more than 2.9 million net square feet of exhibit space, so you’ll definitely get your steps in during the trade show! If possible, try to “map out” each day of meetings within the same event vicinity by looking at the Exhibitor Directory. By scheduling your booth meetings ahead of time, you’ll have an automatic ice breaker ready to go when you walk up to a booth. Instead of waiting for your time to chime in, you’ll have a plan and a purpose for being there. Simply walk up and say, “Hi, [Insert Name]! I’m [Insert Name] from BDSmktg  – it’s so nice to meet you in person! We spoke over email a few weeks ago, is now still a good time to chat? I’d love to learn more about what you’re showcasing today.” There you go – it’s that easy!

3) Be Active On Social Media

Before you attend any trade show, it’s essential to follow your trade show’s account on social media, and also pay attention to any other people who are using its unique hashtag. Take CES, for example. CES has a dedicated Twitter account @CES, where they share important show updates and tease event promotions using the hashtag #CES2020. What’s more, you can see who else is following the @CES Twitter account by clicking on “followers” – CES currently has almost 300,000! That way, you can get a quick idea of who else in the industry is showing interest in the upcoming trade show, and you might even be able to connect with an individual on social media before the trade show begins.

Even more important is how you use social media during the trade show. As you walk from booth to booth, don’t be shy if something in particular catches your eye! Snap a pic and post on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with an appreciative message like “Wow! Awesome experience at the [Insert Company Name] booth at @CES. So many innovative companies at this year’s show! #CES2020.” Not only will a simple post like that show that you’re actively involved in what’s happening at the trade show, but it will also let that company know how impressed you were by their booth. You might even get a “like” or a “re-tweet” in response! The more connections you’re able to make at CES the better, and social media is an excellent medium to help you get there.

4) Bring A Notebook & Always Follow Up

Trade show days can be long, and you’re so busy meeting new people and discovering innovative products that it can be hard to keep track of everything you’re learning. That said, it’s a great idea to bring a notebook and pen with you while you’re making your rounds on the show floor. That way, you can jot down the name and contact information of the person you’re speaking to, plus a few key takeaways from your conversation. If you have an especially remarkable exchange with somebody at a booth, take a few minutes after the fact to re-read your notes, quickly clarify any information you might have written down, and maybe even write a quick email draft of what you’d like to say and/or mention when you follow up.

Speaking of following up… what’s the point of attending a trade show if you don’t plan to follow up with your new industry contacts?! Most people leave a trade show with a briefcase full of business cards and a notebook full of notes – now what? The first thing you should do after you get back to the office is make a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets of everyone you met at CES, and be sure to include the following categories:

  • Company
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Title
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Notes

In the “notes” section, type up all your notes that you jotted down in your notebook so you can easily reference them all in one place. Then, write a personalized email to everyone on your list, and be sure to include a little snippet of your conversation so they immediately remember meeting you! Here’s a quick template to get you started:

“Hi[Insert Name],

It was so great meeting you at CES last week!

 I really enjoyed our conversation about your new product, [Insert Product]. Something you said about [Insert Detail About Product] really stuck with me, and I just got done discussing your company with my team.

 We both agree that [Insert Company] would be a great partner in the New Year, and I’d love to connect on the phone soon to discuss your 2020 plans.

 Let me know if you’re available this week or next for a quick chat. Thanks!”

As you receive responses from each contact, mark the leads as hot, warm, and cold in your spreadsheet to keep everything organized. If you haven’t received an email response within a week, feel free to follow up. However, don’t follow up more than 3 times – you want to seem eager, not desperate!

5) Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

For so many people, even the outgoing ones, the idea of walking up to a complete stranger and striking up a conversation can be very intimidating. That said, everyone else at the trade show is just like you – there to get stuff done! Try to push yourself out of your comfort zone and remember, we’re all human. Yes, even extraordinarily smart software engineers who have a PhD in Computer Science from Harvard University! Many trade shows, CES included, plan happy hours, dinner parties, and other social events for their attendees. What better way to get to know somebody than over a couple of beers and tasty apps? At trade shows, business should come before pleasure, but sometimes it’s good to kick back and connect in a more casual way with your fellow event attendees.

On that note, don’t forget to enjoy yourself! Trade shows are a great way to meet new people and make new connections, but they’re also a fresh breath away from the office – an opportunity to learn more about the industry that you love, and come back to your workplace refreshed, recharged, and with a renewed vigor – ready to take on new challenges and push your professional boundaries! So take the time to attend keynote addresses and industry seminars, and strive to leave the trade show a better employee than before. Trade shows are a great way to improve your industry knowledge, and if you push yourself out of your comfort zone, they’re a great way to improve how you interact with other industry professionals, as well.

Trade Shows Like CES Are a Great Way to Kick Off The New Year

2020 will be a big year for the technology industry, and CES is a great way to get a head start on New Year trends. What better way to set yourself up for a year of success by attending the ultimate platform for technology leaders to connect, collaborate, and propel consumer technology forward?

If you’ll be attending CES in January of 2020, let us know! We’d love to connect with your team during the show and learn a thing or two from each other. Just email us at [email protected] or tag us @bdsmktg, and we’ll be happy to set up a booth meeting!