It’s been on your calendar for weeks, but the major trade show you’ve been waiting to attend is right around the corner. You’ve reserved your passes, booked a hotel room, and made travel arrangements—all that’s left is to get to the show and soak it all in. You’re set.
Of course, planning is only the first (but an important!) step. The real action happens once you step foot onto the conference floor. There are thousands of people to meet, business cards to exchange, exhibitors to talk to, speeches to be inspired by, and so much more – not to mention, the goody bag of giveaways you’ll haul away with once the show is said and done. All that walking and talking takes a lot of energy, but with careful planning, you’ll get the most out of your time at a trade show. Here are 11 tips to help you do it.
1. Bring good shoes – there’s walking to do!
Many trade shows are huge affairs. Scores of vendors, industry experts, and attendees descend upon a major city’s convention center, ready to learn and network. If you want to see all the exhibitors at a trade show, expect to spend a lot of time walking around.
Whether you’ve preplanned to see a select few exhibitors (more on that later!) or want to see every square foot of the trade show floor, one of the most important things is to make sure you wear comfortable shoes. Skip over stiff footwear and high heels and opt for something that supports your feet, so you can focus more on who you’re meeting and less on what you’re wearing.
That doesn’t mean you should wear your gym shoes, of course, but there are plenty of options that’ll match your business attire and won’t end your day in foot pain. You can also consider putting inserts into a less comfortable pair of shoes to help with all that walking on the show floor.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Trade shows are designed to keep your attention and keep you moving. In no time at all, you’ll find yourself going from hobnobbing with industry insiders one moment to rushing to catch an informational panel the next, only to then realize you planned on meeting someone after that panel to chat. That’s a very common occurrence and one that noticeably leaves something out of the equation—water breaks.
All that rushing around can be physically taxing, and it can be easy to forget to take care of you throughout the day. Grab a water bottle before you head out of the house, or pick one up at a vendor or food court within the venue. Don’t forget a snack, either, so you can keep hunger at bay before lunchtime or happy hour rolls around.
3. Dress comfortably, but appropriately
You only get one first impression. And at a trade show, that first impression could be just a few seconds of handshaking (or elbow-bumping this year) and elevator pitches. Just as it’s important to wear comfortable shoes, you should also dress comfortably, albeit in a professional manner. You don’t want to show up in your weekend threads for a formal meeting, nor do you need to show up in a three-piece suit. In most instances, a business casual look will be enough, since everyone knows how demanding a trade show can be over multiple days.
Think about how you walk around in those clothes. For example, a pencil skirt without a slit may be more difficult to maneuver around in than an A-line skirt. Similarly, not all suits have the right give for lots of walking, plus those extra wool layers may make you too warm, distracting you from what’s at hand. Opt for something more breathable instead without giving up the professional look you need to make an impression.
4. Create a schedule, but be flexible
There’s a lot to do during a trade show. Generally, the show’s organizers will post a schedule of everything going on, as well as a map showing where you can find certain vendors and exhibitors on the show floor. Some organizers even put out an app, like the Cannabis World Congress app for Apple and Android devices, that keeps an up-to-date schedule and floor map at your fingertips.
Take time to look at the schedule and come up with a plan of attack for each of your days. You can use the app to pre-plan your show: Mark all your can’t miss stops and plan your route around the show floor. And once the show starts, use that preparation to the best of your ability.
Just remember that you’re one person and may not get to see everything you intended. Things happen—lunch can run long, a great conversation can cement you in place for a while, a booth may grab your attention—and it’s very likely that you may miss out on something you planned to see. Use tools like the app, or even good old-fashioned pen and paper, to keep a list of who you’ve seen, what you did, and what you absolutely don’t want to miss.
5. Carry business cards with you
Your business cards are a great way to share your contact information without forcing someone to pull out a pad and pen. As a professional, you’re going to want to carry a good amount of business cards with you each day. While you may have a list of people you may want to meet on the show floor and at networking events, you don’t know who you’ll run into who you want to catch up with later. Being able to quickly exchange pleasantries before trading business cards to catch up later is common practice, so be sure you have your best business cards at the ready.
6. Bring a notepad and pen
Sometimes, it helps to take notes of the things you’ve seen around the show floor. Trade shows and conventions are notoriously noisy events, and you’re going to take in a lot of new information. Jotting down questions and writing down the most important points of a talk can be a tremendous help.
If you don’t want to carry around some paper and a writing utensil, you can always use a notepad app on your smartphone. There are plenty of free options available on both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. Plus, the Cannabis World Congress app has a Notes section where you can jot down whatever you need!
7. Stay close to the venue
When planning your trip to the trade show, it may be tempting to book a hotel that’s a little farther away from the venue to save a few bucks. However, you may regret that come the end of your day (or night) and you’re just ready to go to bed. On the days of the show, the roads surrounding the convention center will be swarmed with taxis and rideshares as attendees rush to make their way inside. If your hotel is within walking distance, you get to skip the early morning headache and the rush to get home once the trade show floor closes, making for a much more convenient entry and exit.
8. Take advantage of conference events
In addition to the trade show’s regularly scheduled offerings, many vendors use their time in a major city to host off-site events. The trade show organizers may also have events scheduled around the conference. CWCBE organizes Cannabis Week throughout New York City for just this purpose – while you’re attending Cannabis World Congress, you can enjoy great food, spectacular shows, and discounts at local shops just by perusing guide, available on the show website and on the CWCBE app.
9. Follow up with your contacts when you get home
After the show has closed and you’ve made your way back home, be sure to take some time to reach out to your newly minted contacts once you’ve rested your tired feet. It not only helps start a conversation, but it often helps people connect a face and email address to an interaction they had during the show. By setting aside a few moments in your email client, you can further cement the connection you made by thanking them for their time and offering to keep the dialogue open for future collaboration.