How to Successfully Navigate Trade Shows
Few events can be as profitable for your company than a trade show. They are an opportunity to expand your network, make an impact in your industry, and increase exposure for your business. That being said, they can also be a black hole to toss resources in and never see the return. To make sure that doesn't happen, especially with one of the bigger trade shows for the vacation rental industry taking place this weekend, here are five ways to make sure your money & time at VRMA are well spent.
1) Have an Ultimate Goal
With all the networking, late nights, and free food & booze going around, it can be difficult to keep your eye on the reason you're attending in the first place. Before you go, make sure you know exactly why you're going and what you want to accomplish. Do you want to expand your network? Research or purchase a product? Grow your knowledge on an industry subject? By knowing why you're there and what you want, it's much easier to strategically spend your time doing the things that will accomplish that goal. If you have multiple team members attending in different capacities, it's an excellent idea to have a team meeting beforehand. That way everyone understands the overall initiative, and what their individual tasks should be in order to achieve the greater objective.
2) Learn, but Know Who's Teaching
If your goal is gain insight into a particular topic, attending break out sessions can be a fantastic way to accomplish that. Often though, these break out sessions are sponsored by vendors. While not necessarily a bad thing, it's important to remember the vendor's motivation: to increase sales. The reason the vendor has chosen to present on that particular topic is not just for business exposure, but also because they feel speaking on the topic will allow them to showcase their product. The data they present may be useful to you, but it's important to view it critically. Make sure to fact check if something sounds too good to be true, or if the result of the data is that their product is the best. A good place to start is simply by double checking the sources used. If the sources aren't listed, talking to the presenter afterwards will usually provide some clarity. Compliment the presenter, say you'd love to read more on the subject, and ask them for the sources they used to put together the presentation. More often than not, they'll be happy to oblige.
3) Be Direct with Vendors
If your goal is to vet or purchase products, you'll inevitably find yourself in the vendor showcase. Let's be honest, this maze of sales people can be stressful! From the moment you walk in, every booth member has their eyes on you and wants to speak with you. To navigate this maze as easily as possible, best practice is to be blunt. Being forthright about what you're looking for, and especially about what you're not looking for, is mutually beneficial. If you're not interested in the product, the sales person can quickly turn their attention to someone who is. In that same vein, if you are interested in the product, being direct helps you not waste time talking to someone whose product ultimately isn't what you're looking for. The questions you'll want to ask vary depending on your ultimate goal, but by being candid, both you and the sales representative can quickly ascertain whether your businesses would be a good fit.
4) Have Specific Team Standards
We've all seen that person at a trade show that's having a little too much fun. Though this can be entertaining, the last thing you want is that person to be a team member who damages your company's image. By being specific about the professional standards your company expects, it actually makes it easier for those that are attending. The things you'll want to be specific about really depend on the members of your team. For example though, if you're worried about employees consuming too much alcohol, saying: "there is a 1 drink per hour maximum", versus "excessive intoxication is not okay", will help everyone be on the same page. No one has to wonder what is acceptable and what isn't.
At the end of the day, the trade show was put on for you, the attendee! Though industry events can be stressful, letting your hair down and enjoying the time you spend there is so important. Who knows? Perhaps someone you meet there will be an incredibly important contact a few years down the road. Perhaps one card in your stack of business cards will end up quadrupling your company's revenue. Perhaps you'll meet people who you genuinely enjoy. In any of these scenarios, value was produced. Which means whether you're a trade show person or not, it's always worth it.
If you're going to VRMA, we would love to meet you. Please feel free to stop by Booth 600 to have a direct conversation, rest your feet, and tell us about what your dream software looks like!