Retailers can ensure that they have a successful trade-show experience by making solid plans and taking advantage of every opportunity presented by the event.
As a past pet retailer myself, I’ve been to my share of industry trade shows, and I’ve found that there are ways to do them right, and also plenty of ways to do them wrong. Trade shows can be incredibly valuable experiences, offering opportunities to shop and compare a wide range of products, meet suppliers face to face, bulk up on emerging trends, technologies and innovations, and spend time networking with fellow retailers. However, they can be much less valuable if you’re not spending your time productively. Here are a few tips that I’ve acquired over the years for getting the most from your trade show experience:
Have an Agenda
Be strategic about your time by making a schedule for yourself that includes everything important to you. Go over the conference schedule ahead of time and decide which classes are the most relevant to your business. Also, don’t forget to include special sessions and events like keynote speeches, networking receptions and activities on the show floor.
Map the Show
Plan enough time to fully explore the show, and review the exhibit hall floor plan to map out the areas and vendors you want to see. Don’t just wing it—at SuperZoo, for example, there are over 900 exhibitors on a sold-out show floor, so being strategic will really help. While having a strategic game plan will allow you to maximize your time on the show floor, also make sure to leave some time unscheduled. One of the great things about trade shows is the opportunity to expose yourself to new innovations, companies and products that will help your business grow effectively and efficiently.
Connect with Colleagues
Set up meetings in advance with peers, co-workers, and current and prospective suppliers. Reach out to them over social media or through the event’s networking platforms. You’ll also want to take full advantage of being surrounded by so many other industry professionals, so make a point of being social with new people during sessions, organized networking events and right on the show floor. Come prepared to take notes on who you meet and what you learn—and don’t forget your business cards.
Follow Up Quickly
It’s about more than being polite—new contacts can lead to new business opportunities down the road. A little effort goes a long way here, and you should already have their contact info.
Spending a little time on your store, rather than in your store, can be a very valuable investment. With the right strategy, you will find that a trade show can be a great way to get everything you need, all in one place, at one time. You can even put them into action right away at SuperZoo—it’s right around the corner (July 22–24 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas). You’ll have a highly productive three days at pet retailers’ favorite trade show in North America, and you’ll come away refreshed and inspired.
Doug Poindexter is president of the World Pet Association.