Trade Show Redux: 10 Trade Show Tips for a Better Experience

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I wrote this “10 Tips ..” story in the early months of 2020, and we all know what happened after that, right? I thought it would be fun some four years later to amend the list accordingly. So here goes …

… with the turn of every calendar year comes the rush of industry trade shows. Next week we will be “traveling” to my hometown of Chicago for the AHR Show (January 22-24). Concurrently, during the same week, the WWETT show will be doing its thing in Indy (January 24-26). And if that wasn’t enough trade show hype for one week, the World of Concrete Show in Las Vegas is held, you guessed it, the same week (January 23-25).

Following that, we will be in Las Vegas toward the end of February for the IBS/KBIS Show (February 27-29). All of these shows are worth the trip, depending your trade specialty, and what’s most important to you. Normally, I recommend all of these shows but this year is sort of an anomaly so the MH team had to pivot accordingly; I hope you have chosen so as well, my friends.

Builders Show, IBS Show, KBIS Show, World of Concrete, AHR Show, HVAC, HVACR, electrification, plumbing, heating and cooling, heating

The purpose for those attending is to see, feel and test new products, learn and network with fellow attendees. Oh, did I mention hanging out with friends and this awesome community? When attending these trade shows it is best to have a plan. Having attended dozens of these show in the past, I have come up with some tips and strategies to having a successful show.

1. Map Out Your Plan — All of these shows have corresponding websites with a list of exhibitors and events. Map out your day so you are the most efficient with your time, energy and steps on the trade show floor. ( & & & I can’t stress enough to download the appropriate trade show app and make a plan. It’s a must.

2. Wear Comfortable Shoes & Clothing — We all want to look good, and professional, but gone are the days of stuffy apparel. I’d rather feel comfortable and fresh at the end of the day than out of sorts, sweaty and my dogs barking.

Builders Show, IBS Show, KBIS Show, World of Concrete, AHR Show, HVAC, HVACR, electrification, plumbing, heating and cooling, heating

3. Give Yourself Enough Time — The stress of a trade show can be daunting in and of itself. Take as much time as you need to take a deep breath and move freely on the show floor. It’s always a good idea to come in the day or night before a show to make sure all is in order and registration for the show is set. If you are planning a night out, make sure you make any necessary reservations ahead of time.

4. Afterparty Over-Indulging — We all love to go out and enjoy ourselves, especially after a long day at a show. There are numerous manufacturer parties, dinners, soirees, etc. where one can relax and wind down. But staying out all night—and drinking—can be fun, and up to your discretion, but it isn’t advisable, especially if you intend to be at the show the following day. Nobody is impressed with the over-perspired, alcohol lingering on breath, bags under the eyes, headache pounding visit from on over-served attendee. Also, carry water and/or energy drinks and energy bars—or something to snack on—with you.

5. Plan Accordingly for Transportation — Most of the time at busy trade shows, transportation can, well, be a bitch, especially after a show. Keep this in mind as long taxi lines will form to and from the shows. Download your favorite rideshare app so you are locked and loaded.

Builders Show, IBS Show, KBIS Show, World of Concrete, AHR Show, HVAC, HVACR, electrification, plumbing, heating and cooling, heating

6. Visit the Podcast Pavilions — Everyone listens to podcasts, yes? Some of your favorite listens (Appetite for Construction & Make Trades Great Again, among others) will be recording “live” from the podcast pavilions located just in front of the North Hall to the right as your facing the entrance, behind registration and conveniently located by the beer garden. So grab a favorite beverage, relax and enjoy the p-casts!

7. Badges, We Don’t Need No Stinking’… — Well, make sure you have proper badges for the show. For example, attendee, exhibitor and press badges all provide different access and different access times. Make sure you understand the limitations of your particular given badge.

8. Follow-up with Contacts — Once the show is over, what it your end game? What better way to measure the results of a show personally than to document leads, follow up with new contacts, and were you satisfied with your expectations of information, contacts and overall impressions?

Builders Show, IBS Show, KBIS Show, World of Concrete, AHR Show, HVAC, HVACR, electrification, plumbing, heating and cooling, heating

9. If Unable to Attend … — Be sure to follow your favorite social media outlets (@mechanicalhub & @plumbing_perspective for sure!) that may be attending and keep up to date on what’s going on from the show floor. First-of-the-year trade show events are when companies have big product announcements, launches and press briefings.

10. Cellular/WiFi Service — Most shows do not offer WiFi on the show floor, or if they do, it usually sucks. There are certain spots at different venues you may be able to sneak a signal, maybe. Make sure you have business cards on hand or be prepared to exchange info digitally through apps on your phone, so make sure your phone is charged or bring extra chargers!

Like deducing the age of a tree by counting its rings, I count age as it relates to how many AHR shows I have attended. I think I count 20 AHRs, 2021 notwithstanding. Good luck, have a great time, and have a great trade show experience!