By Sherri Powers – LEIGHTRONIX Blog – One of the methods we use to get in front of our customers and have some one-on-one time is attending trade shows. For us, as exhibitors, trade shows are extremely valuable, but these events are equally as valuable for you, the attendees. 
One of the main benefits of attending a trade show is consolidating that purchasing process down from a timeline of weeks to a single day. In a survey conducted by Skyline Exhibits and EXPO Magazine, 88 percent of those polled said trade shows and conferences are “an important part of the product sourcing and buying process.” In the same survey, 91 percent of those polled said these events are “essential for comparing products and meeting suppliers in person.”
Trade shows present an environment in which vendors compete for your business. As you walk around, you can immediately compare numerous companies’ products, prices, and services. These are also good places for you to discover new companies. Often, customers attend shows with very little knowledge of who sells the type of products they are looking for. By attending a trade show, they can figure out which companies sell what they are looking for, and which solution is the best for them, all in just one day.
Trade shows can also provide you with greater confidence in your purchase. Being at a trade show gives you the ability to see the solutions firsthand and actually touch and work with various products. This affords you the opportunity to discover how easy the product is to work with, and the quality and speed with which the product operates. Trying to compare specifications can be tricky, especially when you aren’t sure what is being measured and how. By actually working with the products, you can see how the specifications come together to create a final product and more confidently compare the performance of the products.
While attending the shows is great for product comparison and a hands-on experience, simply attending a trade show can be daunting and leave attendees unsure of what to do. To get the most out of your experience you need to be proactive and prepared for what will be coming at you.
Have a clear idea of what you are looking for: do a little bit of research before you show up and have a basic understanding of the product you are looking for. Come up with a list of things you NEED out of the product and a list of WANTS that for the right price would be nice to have. The lists you make should be a guide, but be prepared to be a little flexible. There may be new features and products out there that you were unaware of that fit in your budget and provide you with a better solution than the one you originally set out for.
Take Extra Business Cards: A lot of exhibitors and attendees use business cards to keep track of who they’ve talked to and should follow up with. Figure out how many business cards you think you should take, then double that. You will also be getting quite a few cards so be sure to have a system to keep them organized. Many people write notes directly on the business card as reminders when they go to make the call a few days later.
Attend Presentations: Most trade shows will have scheduled presentations throughout the day. It’s usually a good idea to attend one or two, especially if a company who sells a product you are interested in is giving a presentation. These are often pretty informative and can provide you with good base-level knowledge about the subject. If you have any questions after the presentation or find yourself confused, you can always follow up with the presenter in their booth.
Strike Up Conversations: Not just with exhibitors but also with attendees. You will often find someone who is looking for the same type of product/solution as you. These are good people to compare notes with and discuss what you feel the best options are. You may even run into someone who owns a product you are looking at, who can tell you if they are happy with the product or if they have been having any issues. This kind of information is invaluable in the purchasing process.
Take Notes: Make sure to bring a few pens and plenty of paper to take notes with. You are going to get a ton of information, most of which you’ll forget if you don’t take detailed notes. When you return to your office, your notes will be a key part in the decision making process for you and your colleagues.
In a survey conducted by Skyline Exhibits and EXPO Magazine, they asked why attendees attended trade shows. Below are their responses. (To check out this entire survey and article click here: The Value of Trade Shows
“What are your reasons for attending conventions, trade shows and conferences?”
See new products- 92 percent
Keep up to date on industry trends/issues- 78 percent
See many companies at one time- 75 percent
See existing suppliers- 67 percent
See specific companies or products- 67 percent
Network with colleagues and/or vendors- 65 percent
Create and/or strengthen industry relationships- 60 percent
See products “in-person” that were reviewed online- 57 percent
Get technical information or specifications- 52 percent
Attend seminars/workshops- 41 percent