How To Master The PPAI Expo (and every other tradeshow)

master expo

A tradeshow, especially one as big as The PPAI Expo, is not something you just show up to like it’s syllabus week in college.  At the VERY least, you need a week to prep.  But you should really start preparing over a month in advance.  This outline will guide you through the process and help you make the most of your time in Vegas.

BEFORE EXPO

1.  Do your research.  What do your current customers want?  Are they looking to expand their reach?  Garner attention from current customers?  Rebrand?  Your customers’ problems are your problems, so think of how attending this tradeshow could help you solve them.  Once you’ve established what you’re trying to solve, you can start researching what suppliers have what you’re looking for.

2.  Establish a plan.  First, you should create a walk list.  Deciding beforehand whose booth you definitely want to visit will ensure you actually accomplish what you set out to do and will make your time at expo most effective.  Next, decide what suppliers you want to spend more time with and schedule meetings with them.  The best part about tradeshows is that they give you the opportunity to meet face to face with other people in the industry.  Even if it’s just to stop by and say hello, make sure you schedule time to meet with those suppliers you work with, but never actually see.  If there are suppliers you would like to start doing business with, you should also schedule a time to meet with them and at least introduce yourself to start your relationship off on the right foot.

DURING EXPO

1.  Stick to your plan.  You make a plan for a reason, stick to it.  If you’ve already determined your schedule and the most efficient way to accomplish everything, you’ll be fine as long as you don’t stray from your plan.

2.  Don’t forget about your meetings.  Keep track of time and set reminders on your phone if you need to.  Nothing is worse than asking someone to set aside time in their busy schedule for you and then blowing them off.

3.  Be present.  Don’t get so caught up in everything that is happening during the week that you don’t take the time to make real connections with people and absorb all that is happening.  Think of networking like dating.  Connecting with someone is still an essential part of forming a new relationship.

4.  Get everyone’s contact information.  Even if you don’t plan on doing business with them now, you may change your mind in the future.  Also, take photos, notes, and anything else that will help you remember people and what you spoke to them about.  This will save you much humiliation in the future.

5.  Think of your customers and be inspired.  Your customers are the reason you’re here.  Be thinking of them and what they would want when you’re looking at products.  Make sure you take photos so you can show them later.  You should also allow yourself to get inspired when you see new products.  What other clientele could you attract?  What products interest you most?  Be open to new ideas.

AFTER EXPO

1.  Follow up.  Hopefully you took detailed notes about all of the wonderful humans you met at the tradeshow; you and your staff are going to need this during the follow-up process.  As a rule of thumb, you should always follow up within three days.

2.  Reshape your business plan for 2015 and think of new creative marketing pieces.  It’s great that The PPAI Expo is at the beginning of the year because it gives you the opportunity to see all of the new products and can shape your entire plan for the year.  Maybe you saw a new line of products that will really help you market to the health industry.  You can now make that a goal for 2015.

3.  Get in touch with your customers and share any new ideas you have.  Remember how you were thinking about your customers during the expo?  Share your ideas with them.  They’ll be happy you were thinking of them and your ideas could be exactly what they’re looking for.

4.  Evaluate your experience.  The only way to grow your business is if you’re constantly learning from your mistakes and thinking of ways to be better.  Is there something you could improve upon so that your next tradeshow is even more successful?

5.  Take what you’ve learned and share it with the rest of your company.  It’s not always possible to bring every employee in your company to every tradeshow.  And while nothing can beat the experience of actually attending a tradeshow, it is definitely beneficial to share what you learned with your staff who couldn’t make it.  This way, the benefit multiplies.  Taking photos of products and taking notes during education sessions will help your staff immensely.

If you’re looking for a tool that will make everything at tradeshows easier, SAGE Mobile can help.  SAGE Mobile is an app for iOS and Android devices that allows you to browse exhibitors, create a walk list, collect people’s contact information, take notes, photos, and voice memos, and much more!  Watch the video below or click here to learn more about how SAGE Mobile can maximize your tradeshow experience!

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