We are coming into the exhibitions silly season and so I thought I’d offer my thoughts on how to make the most of attending an exhibition.

(If you are exhibiting, I wrote a blog last year about how to make the most out of exhibiting which you’ll find by clicking here).

Plan ahead and set objectives. Exhibitions shouldn’t be considered a ‘jolly’. They cost your business time and money and so the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. Decide beforehand what you want to get out of it. You might want to meet new suppliers, carry out some competitor analysis or use the supporting events to network and learn from key speakers. But do articulate what it is that you want – it will give you a focus that is often lacking.

Arrange meetings. I truly believe that there is nothing less ethical than trying to sell to exhibitors at these events. These guys have paid hundreds or thousands for the opportunity to show you their products and services.  And you have attended knowing that –  so let them. But if there is someone that you’d like to speak to and you think that they might be at the show – call them beforehand and arrange to meet with them over a coffee break.

Register in advance. For paying delegates,  this is usually cheaper, and it’s certainly quicker on the day. Print your badge off beforehand which will most likely have been emailed to you. You’ll also be kept up to date with new speakers and any changes to the event.

Dress appropriately. By this I mean smart appropriately, but also comfort appropriately. You are most likely to be on your feet for a long time so wear comfortable shoes. And it sounds silly, but if needed, take an umbrella. How many time have you seen someone still soaking wet halfway through the day – it doesn’t give the right impression does it?

Be happy to learn. We often think we know it all, but attend events to re-learn key points about your industry or sector.  Attend keynotes and viewpoints. There is always that nugget of information that we’ve forgotten (or never knew) that is worth its weight in gold.

Pace yourself. Don’t rush around trying to get everything done quickly. Use the show to build relationships and start to engage with others in your sector or marketplace. Expect to be there all day. At the end of the day when everyone else has sloped off, exhibitors and speakers will be more than happy – and grateful! – to spend time chatting to you. And remember you never know where a lead may come from.

Follow up. This is where the majority of us fall down. Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. Before the event even takes place, block time off in your diary to do your follow ups. And be different. Everyone gets back after an exhibition to three dozen ‘nice to meet you’ email messages. Why not pick up the phone and arrange an on-site visit to keep that relationship alive?

Exhibitions and tradeshows can be good for business – spend time on getting them right!