ICS Magazine

The Business of Show

April 11, 2005

Many business owners get the opportunity to attend industry-wide trade shows and conventions every year. These events can be very beneficial to your business, and are often a source for new ideas and technology.

Attending these events can represent a substantial financial investment, and it is wise to take a few minutes to think about how to get the maximum benefit out of attending.

Industry convention and trade show benefits can be divided into three general categories:

  • Social and networking opportunities
  • Educational seminar opportunities
  • Product and supply opportunities

    Following are a few things I have learned from years of attending these functions that will help you get the most from your investment.

    Your preparation starts before you head for the convention city. Review the most recent trade magazines, like ICS, to get some idea of current industry trends, interesting topics of discussion, and product introductions that interest you. Talk to your staff and see what challenges and ideas they would like to see addressed by industry experts.

    Review the published pre-convention program, and circle presentations that look interesting to you. The program will also list any social opportunities like luncheons, banquets, or golf tournaments that may present excellent networking opportunities.

    Product/Supply Opportunities
    Industry trade shows are the best place to gather information on, and get a firsthand peek at, the latest technological advances in equipment, chemistry, and instrumentation. Everyone sends their latest demo units and their most knowledgeable salespeople. There are often "show specials" that can mean real savings if you are able to buy on the spot.

    There is often much more going on there than you really need, and the challenge is to identify what is applicable to your particular business. Generally, the trade show itself extends over a couple of the convention days, offering you the chance to drop by more than once. One technique that has proven useful for me in the past is to use the first trade show hours to "walk the show." This means moving relatively quickly through the exhibits taking note of those things on your pre-convention list that you wanted to see or learn about. You should also note anything that catches your eye that you would like to investigate further. By quickly walking the show, you are sure to get through every aisle and are less likely to overlook something you need to see.

    Then, the next time the exhibits are open, go right to those special interest places you noted previously and spend time with the exhibitors, making sure you get all the information you need.

    Educational Seminar Opportunities
    Industry conventions usually offer lectures or workshops presented by leading industry experts. This is where you can get the real details on the latest business development techniques, production procedures, and marketing ideas from the leaders in the field. These presentations are often times very specialized, and may run concurrently with other presentations, so a careful review of the program is in order to make sure you get to all those of special interest to you. There is often time for individual questions during each presentation.

    Social/Networking Opportunities
    Quite often, the times of greatest value at industry gatherings are the one-on-one opportunities to network, visit, and socialize with industry leaders, peers, and colleagues. It's a chance to talk shop with successful individuals who understand what you are talking about. It's a chance to personally get to know individuals that you may only have heard about before. It's a chance to build strong and lasting friendships whose value cannot be measured in dollars. Some people even compare industry conventions and trade shows with a type of vacation, and use the time to re-energize themselves, regaining the excitement and zeal that caused them to get into the business in the first place.

    Whatever your reasons for attending, it is wise to plan ahead and make the most of attending these industry events. New ideas, new opportunities, and new friends are all good reasons to spend the money. You'll be glad you made the investment.