Going to a Trade Show? Plan Ahead to Make the Most of Your Visit

Posted On January 15, 2018 By Protolabs
SPIE 2017 Tradeshow
Trade shows are all about learning, whether in seminars and workshops, or visiting vendor booths. Here, Tony Holtz, a Protolabs applications engineer, discusses a 3D-printed part with a show attendee at last year’s SPIE show in San Francisco.

As you get ready to hit the road to attend your next trade show or conference, keep in mind a few tips for making the most of these events.

Make a plan. For large trade shows, look at the event’s website ahead of time for the show’s floor plan, the exhibitor list, and specific program-track lineups, advised Kristen Weis, Protolabs’ marketing manager for events. When looking at that exhibitor list, it is also helpful to determine which ones you must see, which ones you would like to see, and those that “would be nice to see,” said Julie Murphy, a trade show veteran who has planned and worked at various shows, in a recent article.

In other words, make a priority list. “I map out which booths I am going to hit and in what order, because trade shows are massive, and I can’t afford to needlessly tire myself out,” said Stephen Key, co-founder of InventRight, in a recent Inc. article. “Start walking the floor as soon as possible. Once you’ve visited the companies on your list, feel free to walk the floor at your leisure.”

Take advantage of networking. Trade shows are great places for organic networking opportunities, said Weis of Protolabs, and they occur everywhere—the exhibit hall, coffee break sessions, the hallway outside conference rooms, your hotel’s lobby or bar—you get the idea.

Bring business cards. Bring along business cards, too, of course, and don't be shy about getting your show badge scanned at vendor booths you visit. This is also a form of networking that can be valuable, Weis said.

Dress the part. People will take you more seriously if you dress appropriately, said Key of InventRight. “If the trade show is about sporting equipment and fitness, you don’t need a three-piece suit. For other industries, a sport coat is more appropriate.” And, speaking of clothes, pack comfortable footwear. You’ll be walking and standing a lot at trade shows.

Ask questions. When visiting vendor booths or attending programs, feel free to ask questions, said Weis. Trade shows are all about learning, and the best way to learn is to ask. Plus, some vendors, including Protolabs, will have engineers staffing their booths, so make the most of these resources.

Finally, Protolabs will be exhibiting at a number of trade shows this year, so make sure to swing by our booth and say hello. Here are some of the shows we will be attending in the near future:

Jan. 29 – Feb 1: SPIE Conference, San Francisco. Booth: 139

Feb. 6-8: Pacific Design & Manufacturing, Anaheim. Booth: 3301

Feb. 4-7: SOLIDWORKS World, Los Angeles. Booth: 422

March 7-8: Advanced Design & Manufacturing, Cleveland. Booth 717

You can find a list here of more shows we will be attending.