Somehow you’ve found yourself standing in line to get your badge to stand in line to get into a trade show exhibit floor. Maybe you decided to go to check out the latest construction products and technologies. Maybe you’re in the market for new heavy equipment or construction software. Maybe you read a persuasive blog by a smooth talking marketing guy about the benefits of the construction industry trade show. Whatever brought you there, there you are. Let’s consider the things you can do to make the most out of your trade show experience.
The 5 ‘P’s
We’ve all heard the old adage that “Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance”—the old 5 ‘P’s rule. This holds for trade shows, to a degree. You should know why you are going, then identify conference sessions to attend and exhibitors to visit that make sense given your objectives.
That’s solid, practical, obvious advice. And a bit boring. If you did read part 1 of this blog (if not, it’s not too late!), then you’ll recall that I believe one of the reasons trade shows will hang around a bit longer is that they deliver the unexpected. Turn a corner and you can find something you didn’t even know existed.
Because the size and scope of many shows can be daunting, some seasoned attendees tend to plan their time—what they will do, who they will visit and how they will walk the show floor. But here (thanks to the magic of my Microsoft Word Thesaurus) is another 5 ‘P’s for you: Profuse Planning Produces Poor Payback.
If you structure all your time at an industry event, you may accomplish your objectives, but you won’t know what you’ve missed. Having been to approximately 1,793 trade shows myself over the years, I’ve seen it many times: the purposeful walk of the purposeful attendee, head down in a show guide, looking up only to check the aisle marker signs hanging from the ceiling, heading to their next objective, often walking against traffic like a salmon swimming upstream.
When I see those folks, I get it. There is too much to take in, too many displays, too many people smiling and waving badge scanning guns around—yes, the exhibitors can be a bit like bears in the river looking for a salmon. It is important to plan your time, attend the sessions you need to and visit the companies you’d like to see. But there are plenty of ways to attend educational sessions from your desk and plenty of ways to engage companies without traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to see them.
Take advantage of the fact that while you are at a construction industry trade show, you are mingling with thousands of individuals from all parts of the industry. Plan for some unplanned time. Talk to some of those bears in the booths—we’re not all hungry, we’re mostly just lonely, honest! Simply set aside time to wander. Remember the words of J.R.R. Tolkien: “All who wander are not lost.” And when you do get lost, remember to check your phone because…
There’s (probably) an app for that
If you’re a Gen Xer or Millennial, you can skip this section. Let me address my fellow Baby Boomers out there:
Next time you attend just about any event, particularly a tradeshow, go to the app store for your mobile device* and search for the name of the event. Chances are extremely good that there is a free app you can download for that event. Go ahead—it’s not a trap.
Mobile apps for events have come a long way in a short time. They have evolved from being glorified lists of exhibitors and sessions to become tools you can use to plan what to do at the show and how best to do it. The better apps let you select categories of interest, present relevant options for you to choose from, and then even create a schedule and a best path for you to take through the show to get where you need to go. Leaving you with more time for that all important random walk where you can…
Let the World (of Concrete) be your classroom
When you attend a conference session at a trade show to learn about a technology, industry trend, or best practice, you are in a passive learning environment. One person, hopefully an expert in the topic, presents to a room of folks who look and listen and, maybe, get to pose a few questions. In other words, just like any other classroom environment.
Good learning can and does take place in this environment. But consider that at an industry trade show, every company there has brought with them their own experts. Sure, we exhibitors would love to sell you something—these trade shows are expensive! But if you simply come up and ask us a question about our part of the industry or our technology, most of us are going to be thrilled to talk to you. And if someone is less than thrilled—well, see Part 1 of this blog under “You Can’t Photoshop Company Culture”
At shows I attend (such as the upcoming World of Concrete), I spend way more time chatting with folks about construction software technology—cloud computing, mobile apps for construction, business intelligence applications, and so on—than I do selling them our brand of construction software. Just ask my boss.
But he still lets me go because he gets it. The real value of trade shows for the attendee is the unexpected—the product you’ve never heard of before or the conversation you otherwise would never have had. And the real value for the exhibitor is not to peddle wares but to be there in person to have those conversations with you.
* Your child or grandchild will be happy to help
For information on upcoming construction tradeshows and conventions, click here to see Dexter + Chaney's list of upcoming industry events.