Updated: Mar 27
I’ve attended so many shows that I’ve put together a trade show tool kit:
A lanyard that fits my name badge but also allows me to store my business cards separately from those I collect, plus a pocket for mints, hotel keys or other small objects.
A super-lightweight tote with exterior pockets for a cellphone, lipstick, notepad, etc., plus easy access to the interior.
An additional light tote for collecting show literature, just in case I don’t find a new option at the show!
Truly comfortable shoes(!)
A small clutch with a phone cord, an extra battery, cushioned bandages, and other “emergency” items.
Having this at the ready makes attending any show easier and allows me to be more productive, but I’ve also learned that a great show experience requires preplanning, research, and follow-up. It sounds like a lot of extra work, especially if you’re a smaller operation or a solopreneur, but the benefits of meeting suppliers and peers face-to-face are critical.
"No matter how experienced you are, our industry is changing rapidly, and attending IWCE allows you to see and learn about these changes firsthand."
Save time and money at the show by preregistering.
Set your goals, including which vendors you want to visit, what seminars you want to attend and what products/lines you’d like to expand into.
Make appointments with the vendors you know you want to visit; this saves you time and allows the vendor to better prepare for your meeting.
Know your inventory needs before the show to take advantage of discounts and special offers.
Set a show budget and stick to it!
Get in touch with others who plan to attend to see if you can be “show buddies.” For example, each of you can attend different seminars, then swap notes, or divide the show floor into sections, then meet up to share favorite new product finds and information. This allows everyone that’s part of the “buddy system” to maximize their visit.
If you can afford to bring some of your employees with you, work with them to develop their “buddy plans” so that others in the company will benefit as well.
Talk to some of your local media BEFORE the show to see if they’d be interested in a trend report, a product update or any other “news and views” from the show. It gives them unique, low-cost content and positions you as a valuable resource.
Discover what’s new and what’s next. Industry suppliers are some of the best people for you to get to know if you want to learn more about the current business climate, what new things to expect and so much more.
As small or solo business owners, IWCE provides the opportunity to meet up with like-minded colleagues. Ask about the current strategies and techniques that are working for others. It’s a unique chance to learn and share in a focused, but relaxed, environment.
Take some time at the end of each show day to organize the materials you’ve gathered and what you’ve learned. If you’re working the “buddy system,” have a sharing system in place. If it’s for others back at the shop or office, sort it by person and put it into its own labeled bag or envelope. If the information is for you, sort it by priority and use sticky notes to jog your memory after you’ve returned from the show.
Make a postshow to-do list for every major visit, meeting or seminar. What did you learn and how do you plan to implement that new knowledge into your business?
If you requested any product info or samples to be sent after the show, start getting in touch with those vendors one week later to remind them and get delivery details.
Make a plan on how and when to stay in touch with new contacts you made at the show. This is one of the great long-term benefits of attending: a new, wider circle of colleagues to bounce ideas off of, share gripes with and help collectively solve problems.
Analyze what you gained from your time at the show. Were your meetings productive? What did you learn or find? Who did you meet? Evaluate what it would have cost you in time and money to achieve the same amount of information and/or support and then you’ll have a better idea if a trip to IWCE is “worth it.”
"In an industry like ours, IWCE is an opportunity to regroup, recharge and have fun. Being pulled in a million different directions each day means that time away from your business will help you regain your focus and enthusiasm."
Having a great time while working is the best inspiration to want to work more!
Principal designer/owner at House of Style & Design
IWCE'S DESIGNER OF THE YEAR