How to Survive Your First Trade Show

January 30, 2016 — Leave a comment
I spent some time at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago and came away from it knowing more people, being excited about new gear, and having a new excitement for 2016.
However, I also learned a few lessons that I thought I would pass on to all of you in the event that you ever find yourself going to SHOT, ATA, or any other large scale (or even small scale) convention or trade show for more than just personal enjoyment.
I was going to the SHOT Show for a few reasons: meet new people in the industry, see new products for 2016, build a larger network for Hunting Fit, and have a good time (Notice that having a good time is last on the list… I was there to work, first and foremost).
A few of these lessons were learned by doing it right and seeing it pay off. A few of them were learned the hard way. Here are a few things to keep in mind whenever you go to your next outdoor/hunting convention or trade show:

Make Sure You Register as the Correct Type of Attendee

Had I realized there was a deadline to register as “Media”, I would have been sure to register by said deadline. Instead, I missed the cut-off and could not participate as a media member. Had I not made this blunder, I could have seen much more as well as been able to take my own pictures while there. That would have been incredibly valuable to you, the reader, being able to have non-promo, objective images and documented details. Instead, I registered as a non-buyer and didn’t get to carry my camera. Lesson learned. We’ll try again next year.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

I walked a total of 18 miles in two days between airport, hotel, and the SHOT Show floors. Even with all of that walking, I still only saw about 2/3 of the show. It was incredibly huge! If you are going to a convention, wear shoes that will be comfortable to walk in for miles. If you are doing it right then you will be walking a ton! Be prepared.

Have a Plan and a Map

My time at SHOT was very productive because I made a plan before I ever got there and I kept a map on me at all times. This ensured that I knew where I was going and what the next step was after that. A place like SHOT is far too overwhelming to just wander around. You will see a whole lot of nothing while doing a whole lot of walking if you do not have a plan and a map.

Bring Business Cards

The way you follow up with someone after a show like this is to have a business card. Without a business card, your name will be lost in the shuffle. Everyone I met got one of my cards and I got one of theirs. Writing notes on those cards regarding the specifics of your conversation is a good idea if you are prone to forget details. I brought way too many business cards, but better to have too many than not enough.

Know Why You’re There

Are you there to meet people? See products? Have fun? Secure contracts? You need to know why you are going so that you do not get distracted from the task at hand. Like I said before, I was going to meet people and make connections. If I went for more than about 15 minutes without meeting someone, I would tell myself, “You’re here to meet people. Stop wandering around and go meet someone new.” This kept me on track and on mission. If you have a specific reason for going, you need to keep that reason at the front of your mind.

Contact the Most Prospective Brands Before Going

Are you going to connect with brands and seek business deals or partnerships? Contact them before going and try to secure a time to meet. I did this with a few brands and when I got to their booth, the rep I had talked to was ready and waiting for me. This made the time much more focused and productive as introductions were much shorter and they already knew why I was there.

Dress Appropriately

If you are going to just see products and have a good time, dress however you want. If you are going for any business-related reason, dress accordingly. When you walk up to a booth, you may very well be walking up to the CEO or President of the company. No joke. Take it seriously and when in doubt, dress nicer than you think you have to. If you look like you’re serious, you will be taken much more seriously.

Have Fun

Trade shows and expos are great! They can be a lot of fun if you will let it be enjoyable. Don’t let the size of the venue and the people who are there intimidate you. Have a good time, meet some people, and make some memories. I was able to meet people at SHOT that I will try to keep in contact with simply because they were great people and I want to know them better. I also had a blast and hope to go back.
If you follow these tips, you will ensure that your next show experience will be more enjoyable and more productive.

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