Making the most of an exhibition visit
Exhibitions provide some great information, inspirational speakers and interesting exhibiting companies providing great goods and services.
With all that is on offer, how do you, as a delegate, get the best out of your day(s) as a visitor at an exhibition.
1 – Decide
First and foremost, make the decision to give yourself the time to visit! I know it sounds a bit silly, but decide now that it is going to be a development and learning day for yourself.
2 – Prepare
- Visit the exhibitions website and have a good look around.
- Download the exhibition programme.
- Download any show magazines.
- Open your diary and allocate a morning after the show to go through your information and reflect on your visit. This is ‘do not disturb’ time for you.
Now get a cup of tea and read the exhibition programme and the magazine. Make note of anything that peaks your interest. Highlight the different stands, articles and seminars. Some exhibitors have good giveaways if you visit them so make sure you look through the giveaway section too!
You should now have your ‘why I am going’ and your rough plan for the day. It should be aligned to the challenges you and/or your organisation are going through. This is your fundamental reason for going – I would suggest writing it down, for example … “I am going to this exhibition to solve….” – you will see why this is important on the day.
3 – Logistics
Organise your logistics in plenty of time, train times, car journey times, parking, hotels – just get it done.
Now, relax and enjoy the update emails you will be sent.
4 – Pre-show checks
Check your plan and make sure it is clear. Write down where you need to be (seminars and exhibitions) and when; that way you can maximise your time. It might be a good idea to have a coffee with your line manager and get their take on what would be good to come back with. Indeed include anything that would be helpful to them.
5 – Finalise your itinerary
Make sure you have your final plan, that all your logistical stuff is in one place and you are ready to go.
6 – Flex your network!
Check who else is going that you know, or would like to know better. Exhibitions are a great place to meet up.
Relax and enjoy that gradually increasing feeling of excitement as the exhibition draws near.
7 – On the day …
Your route and logistics are all taken care of so getting there should be stress free leaving you to simply have a great day. Use the following tips as a ‘getting the best from the day’ guideline.
- Have a good breakfast! It’s going to be a busy day with quite a bit of walking – fuel up!
- Wear your professional casual clothes that are comfortable. Don’t forget to wear shoes you would be happy walking a few miles in. (And bring a drink to keep you hydrated. You are likely to be talking a lot which does dry you out!)
- Get there when the doors open. If you are giving yourself a day out, then really make the most of it.
- Have your business cards ready. It is easier to give a card out than speak your details over and over.
- When you get in, have a quick walk around to familiarise yourself with where the seminar areas are, the networking area and the exhibitors you want to speak with. It’s handy to know where the coffee areas and comfort rooms are too!
- Work your day according the schedule you have planned. In between your seminars, visit your chosen exhibitors – and if you only have a few minutes to see your chosen exhibitors, tell them the time you have allocated with them, on arrival at their stand!
- You will get approached by everyone (or you should be!) to find out what it is you are looking for. Be approachable and bear in mind that in this day and age, exhibition attendees don’t come to exhibitions to ‘have a look around to see what’s out there’ (that’s what Google and Linkedin are for.) Have your story ready. “Today I am here for….”. It helps the exhibitor to ‘qualify you’ quickly to see if they can help you or point you in the right direction.
Throughout the day, if you have seen a seminar or spoken to someone that has made you think, give yourself some time, have a coffee and write up some notes. You will absorb A LOT of information but only some will stick. Make your notes, capture your reactions and – when it comes to seminars – note the speaker, the company and your own overview of what it was about.
After the event
Now you will appreciate the time you have booked for yourself to review the material you have picked up.
Get your notes, and all the information and go through it. As you look at the information you picked up from the exhibitors, make notes as to those you want to speak with (or rather don’t mind speaking with).
Once you have had a chance to go through all the material, have another coffee with your line manager and discuss what you discovered.
Plan and organise your day and crack on with the easy things as soon as you have made the decision – book logistics etc.
Make the most of your day when you are there.
After the event, allow yourself to reflect on what you have learned and discuss it with your colleagues and/or line manager.
Some do’s and don’ts
- Do be authentic.
- Do be open about why you are here. An exhibitor worth their salt should be professionally helping you to find what you are looking for – not just trying to sell you something.
- Do expect to be approached as you walk past the exhibitors. It’s why they are here and without them, you wouldn’t have the exhibition to attend.
- Do take business cards, it is so much easier for when you need to provide your contact details.
- Do keep your energy levels up as it will be a long day.
- Do take the promotional freebies – most of them are excellent and very useful!
- Don’t waste the day.
- Don’t buy the cheapest coffee – you will regret it!
- Don’t expect to remember everything. The day will be an onslaught of information.
- Don’t be a ‘do as I say – not as I do’ L&D professional. We are always talking about reflection and putting our learning into action – if we don’t do that either, how can we expect our people to!