Your Guide to Navigating Trade Shows
Trade shows are crazy. Thousands of people wander throughout the venue. Neon lights flash, feeling like you're walking down the Las Vegas Strip. Noises from machinery, conversations, and speakers pound your ears.
Walking into a trade show is overwhelming and overstimulating. In order to avoid letting the show consume you, you need to come up with a game plan.
BEFORE THE SHOW
First, find a list of attendees. (If you're heading to the Impressions Expo in Long Beach, here's the list of attendees.) Learn more about the vendors who will be at the show. Learn about what they offer. They may have products that intrigue you, and you'll be able to try them out at the show. Create a list of vendors you definitely want to connect with.
Secondly, sign up for classes. One of the main purposes of attending a trade show is to learn more about the industry. If you're new to screen printing, definitely check out classes about how to run a business. Otherwise, take a look at the class list and see which classes will help fill voids in your shop. Need more help with creating screens? Struggling with using programs to produce art? Want to know the apparel trends in 2020? This list of classes are endless. Seriously, sign up for some. You can't hurt yourself by learning new stuff.
AT THE SHOW
Have your list of vendors to check out? Good, hit up all the people you want to see. When you go into their booths, sign up for newsletters, grab samples, and get any other pertinent information like their website, phone number, and email. At the booths, you'll be able to try new products and chat with experts and representatives.
At Ryonet's booth at the upcoming Impressions Expo, we'll be showcasing new products and equipment, provide hands-on experience with DTG printers like the PolyPrint, give you a chance to try FN-INK™ and Sgreen® chemicals, and demonstrate how to use automatic presses like the ROQ.
Running into any problems in your shop? Talking about the problems face-to-face with an expert is a fantastic way to solve your issue. Be honest with your self and with the vendor about the issues you're running into. There's no shame if you're stuck on an issue. We're all learning. We're all evolving. Talk about your deficiencies in your shop. Ask experts questions on processes you think could be improved. Representatives are there to help and serve you. Ask your questions, get your answers.
After you hit up all your must-see vendors, take a break. Step outside the venue, take a breath of fresh air. As we already stated, a trade show is overwhelming. Eat your lunch somewhere nice. Take a walk. Let your senses chill for a bit. You'll be refreshed and ready to jump back in.
After you've hit your list of vendors to see, just explore. There may be new products, technology, or sectors of the industry you've never heard about. Look around, and discover new things you can possibly incorporate into your shop.
More happens at the trade show than showing off fancy, new products and equipment. Lots of trade shows will have networking opportunities, like a big party. You should attend these parties or networking events. These events will be way more relaxed, informal. You'll run into friends, competitors, and people who just want to talk shop. It's a great way to wrap up your day at the trade show.
AFTER THE SHOW
Alright, your head is filled with all the new information you learned, you've got a list of contacts with different vendors and suppliers – what do you do with all of it?
First, organize all your notes, samples, swag, and everything else. Once you got it all organized, sleep on it. Again, you learned a ton of new information. It's best to let your brain settle so you'll be able to sort through it all with a fresh outlook. After you slept on it, comb through the information. You may find some gaps or more questions about a product or process you had discussed with a representative. With that contact information you got at the show, you can reach out to the vendor to follow up from your conversation, and to have your new questions answered.
Another thing you can do is teach other people in your shop the new skills and information you learned. It's a great way to help reiterate what you learned, practice it, and grow your shop's knowledge and edge.
Props to you for going to a trade show. You're going to learn a ton, meet a lot of cool people, and just have a great experience overall.