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Trade Show Tips and Hints

Fall means trade show season and if you work in sales, marketing or business development, you will probably find yourself asked to attend an industry trade show event this fall.

In the past month, I have attended three trade shows in different cities. Since I am in sales, I had booth duty each day of the show and did more than my fair share of standing, shaking hands, passing out business cards and demonstrating my company's products.

Having been active at trade shows for over a decade, here are some hints and tips which may help you with your trade show activities.

Get there early - Most trade shows start in the morning with some having odd start times like 10:30 or 11AM. For best results, bite the bullet and fly in the night before. That way, you can get to the show early, set up and make sure all is well before the doors open. Fly the morning of the show and you may sleep late and miss your flight and that means being late for the show open.

Bring more business cards than you normally would carry - For two, three or more days, you will be handing out biz cards right and left so bring extra.

And be ready to collect and organize visitor's cards as well. I keep all the business cards I collect in a single box beneath our booth's counter. I also like to right a brief note on the back which describes the customer's interest like "needs collateral for EU usage".

Socializing is great, but don't forget you are there to work - Meeting others who work in your industry is great, but let's face it, your competitors are not going to buy your product! Make new friends, but concentrate on meeting new prospects and customers.

Drink plenty of water, eat properly, get lots of rest - Trade shows often include after show parties, cocktail receptions, client dinners and nightcaps with the gang. Take care to drink responsibly (or not at all) as one wild, "out of town, out on the town night" can ruin your career. Your best bet is to attend one function after the show, avoid alcohol or drink moderately and then head back to your hotel early.

And once back at the hotel, make your time count! Organize leads and prospects met at the trade show. Catch up on your email and voice mail. Call home and talk with the family. Get to bed early and plan on starting early the next day.

As always, get up early and take care of yourself. Go for a run or spend some time in the hotel fitness room. Eat a good breakfast. Press your clothing and shine shoes. Get your bag ready and clean out yesterday's work and only bring the minimum needed for your day on the show floor.

If you get some time away from the booth, have a plan before walking the show floor. Fine one or more prospect who might be interested in your product or services. Or find five people of interest and network. Don't waste time collecting freebies or checking out exhibits which have no benefit to your work or career.

Finally, respect other's time. Visitors to your booth deserve you full attention. Keep your presentation and explanation brief, but compelling. Make concrete plans to follow up with prospects by a certain date and keep your word.

Trade shows can be grueling, but they can also be great source for new customers and revenue. Use your time wisely and profit immensely!

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