Industry Experience: 6 Life Tips You Can Take From Trade Shows

Demos at the Novarad booth at RSNA 2014.

We’ve married life experience with sage advice from our in-house trade show expert, Justin Brooks. Take these tips and use them well, whether it be at your next family event, company event, or even a trade show.

1. Work backwards.

If you have an incredibly important date (trade shows: the day you need to pay booth fees), work backwards from it. Do you need to have a certain thing finished weeks in advance? Months in advance? Working backwards provides you with a preset starting point for your efforts, no matter what you’re planning.

“I create an overall to-do list, and then I start, and then I work backwards,” Brooks said. “Say the show starts on this day. Then I know I need to have everything shipped to [the venue] by this day. If it needs to be shipped by that day, it needs to leave the first location two days prior.”

And use your project schedule (below) to determine when everything needs to be done.

2. Create a project schedule.

List out tasks and deadlines, and come up with a target budget.

“You can even put those on your Outlook calendar if they’re important dates, or whatever calendar you use at work,” Brooks said.

The same goes for any plans; things run more smoothly if you know what to expect and you know it will be done.

3. Create an open environment.

At a trade show, you need to be easily approachable.

“Don’t force people to walk around,” Brooks said. “Remove all excuses for people to pass you by.”

Conform to the flow of traffic. Open and inviting, yet functional.

The same thing can, more often than not, apply to every day life. Keep yourself open to new opportunities, and always be looking for ways to improve.

(Trade show tip: If you have a very small booth, look at what you’re trying to accomplish. For example, if you want to show off a product, make sure you have enough workstations to show off your product. Try to keep space open for people to walk. A small booth isn’t a bad thing.)

4. Set-up to take down.

“If you have a management company, you don’t really have to worry about this,” Brooks said. “But if you’re doing it yourself, it matters.”

When you’re making plans, you want to be able to clean up quick. Don’t force yourself to deal with unnecessary repercussions or leftovers. If you’re planning an event, plan the clean up, too. As you’re setting stuff up, think about how you’re going to take it down–literally.

5. Follow-up counts.

Incorporate an after-show plan for handling leads into your project schedule. If you know what will happen to leads and who will be held accountable, you won’t have to worry about those people disappearing.

It’s also important to keep in mind that not all leads are equal. Just because someone’s name ends up on a list, it doesn’t mean they’re going to buy your product. Have a system in place to flag high-quality leads, so you can reach out to those people first.

If someone does you a favor, send them a thank-you note. Connect on LinkedIn. Take the time to establish a relationship. It’s well worth the effort.

6. Remember, if you build it, they may or may not come.

And that’s okay (sort of). While results are important, sometimes things simply don’t work out. Better to try something new with the possibility of failure than to try nothing and surely fail.


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Hello, I'm Kristi!

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