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Trade shows are big business and simply great for networking. Reports that trade shows are the fastest growing segment of today's marketing mix.
A trade fairs also known as trade shows, trade exhibitions or trade expo are exhibition organized so that companies in a particular industries can display and exhibit their most up-to-date products and services, whilst also keep abreast of their competitors activities and apprise themselves of latest market trends and prospect.
Thousands of trade and public shows are held, were companies of all shapes and sizes exhibit, across the US and Canada every year generating business worth billions
Trade shows are BIG business...and growing.
What A Place To Network
Keeping in mind the sheer size of trade shows, they provide tremendous opportunities for networking. Business people, professionals, hobbyists, volunteers - you name them - they all attend trade or public shows. At any time of the year there is a show of some kind held in virtually every city in the United States and Canada, ranging from a hobby or craft show to major industry shows.
These shows are divided into two basic groups, horizontal (wide appeal) shows and vertical (narrow focus) shows. The larger horizontal shows are typically consumer shows such as home improvement shows, flower shows, health shows and automobile shows. The vertical shows are industry oriented shows such as hardware shows, electronic shows and chemical shows.
Additionally they may have smaller shows like health fairs, state and local fairs, public service exhibits, hobby and special interest shows and craft fairs.
Networking Components Of Trade Shows
Every trade show offers a wide variety of opportunities to network. Let's categorize the people attending a show for our networking purposes.
First there are the participants, and they fall into two groups. One group is the exhibitors; the other group consists of people attending to specifically visit the exhibitors on behalf of their company or other sponsor.
The next category would be people visiting for general interest on a more casual basis. Another category is a group of people who attend shows to find jobs or to pick up new lines. Lastly there are those that attend a show for the specific purpose of networking.
For each of these groups there are numerous ways and places to network.
Networking The Show
The obvious approach to networking a trade show is to just walk up and down aisles and see who you might meet. But there are other, less obvious, yet extremely effective approaches to networking the show.
For exhibitors, networking outside the booth can be almost as effective as the selling time in the booth. When booth personnel get a break they can network among other exhibitors who might be prospective customers. Ask for the exhibitor list and analyze it thoroughly. Your fellow exhibitors could be the best networking prospects for you. You can also network with competitors or with industry people who might not come to your booth or display.
Other attendees can network for new ideas, new products, new jobs, or to meet both interesting and important new contacts.
"Off The Floor" Networking
In addition to networking possibilities on the show floor, there are many other opportunities for networking "off the floor." Associated with most trade shows are receptions, cocktail parties, special meals and banquets, hospitality suites, training sessions and seminars. All of these events offer attendees a chance to network.
For those attending a show for more than one day and staying in a local hotel, there are more opportunities to network. The lobby of their hotel and the lobby of the official hotel provide great meeting places for making new friendships and greeting old friends and acquaintances.
Hotel lobbies provide great opportunities for networking. They provide a vantage point for observing who comes through the doors and off the elevators. This way you can quickly zero in on those people you are especially anxious to see during the show.
When a trade show offers sponsored transportation, usually a bus that makes a loop among the major hotels, skip the cab and ride the bus - not to save money, but rather to increase your chances to network. Not unlike airplanes or trains, trade show busses often put you in the right place with the right people at the right time.
An unusual but effective place for trade show networking is in the airport prior to boarding your plane to the show or following the show. You'll find plenty of attendees in the executive lounges of the major airlines.
Two Birds With One Trip
It seems almost too obvious to mention, but a trip to a trade show away from home provides an already paid trip to also visit people in your network in the city of the show. Along with planning your work at the show, side visits require equal planning to get the most out of the spare time you have available. It may mean calling friends ahead of time to get them to meet you or to arrange for you to seek them out for a meeting.
Three Must Follow Rules:
Trade shows are a must for the serious networker, and at all times, they must attend trade shows wherever and whenever they can, plan ahead to take advantage of every opportunity to network the show and follow up after the show.
Perhaps the most serious problem with attending trade shows is apathy on the part of prospective attendees. Their big questions are: "What can I get out of the show for the time and money spent?"; "Will I sell more products?"; "Will I find something that will pay for my trip?" If you consider serious networking as an integral and vital part of your show trip, the answer to these questions will surely be positive.
Networking Tips For Trade Shows
Plan ahead - check the exhibitors' directory and map out on aisle and booth route that assures you of seeing the people most important to you.
Carry a miniature tape recorder - or at least a small note book to capture thoughts in the fast paced atmosphere of the trade show.
Bring plenty of business cards - really more than you think you'll need (and you'll still probably run short).
Make notes - on the back of the business cards you collect.
Avoid carrying catalogs, literature, samples that exhibitors offer or are on display in the booths. Ask suppliers to mail these things to you following the show.
Avoid extensive booth conversations. This dilutes precious time and proved to be a distraction from customers and hamper business prospects. If you want more than a brief networking encounter, set up an appointment during the show.
Get some rest and check your grooming several times during the show day. Your networking will surely reflect your attitude and appearance as the day wears on.
Organize your cards and notes at the end of every day. Outline the action you are going to take following the show. Use the show as an opportunity to send mail to key people in your network.
Follow up with important contacts just as soon as you get back home or to the office.