Are You Ready for Your First Trade Show?

Whether you’re prepping for your first show or just hoping to make this year’s show the best, these tips will help you make the most of your time.

Attending a trade show with your team is a great way to grow your business. In one location, you can increase employee loyalty, network with peers and other industry professionals, learn new management techniques and discover new products and services for your club.

Having attended multiple trade shows as a membership director, club manager and more recently as an exhibitor, I’d like to share some tips for making the most of your visit.

Tip 1: Plan Staff Seminar Choices Together
Review with your staff the seminars they would like to attend. Suggest key segments that are relative to their position. Allow your employees to choose a few seminars outside of their areas of expertise to encourage growth and development. Require a written paragraph listing key points learned at each seminar.

Tip 2: Make the Most of Seminar Attendance
For optimum engagement, sit in the front half of the room. Introduce yourself to those seated near you, and exchange business cards. Make eye contact with the speaker and contribute in question and answer segments. Active participation when the speaker requests it serves to further the learning experience of all the attendees- we can all learn from each other.

Tip 3: Bring Plenty of Business Cards
I consistently run into attendees who do not have business cards on hand. You never know where you might meet a future candidate for employment or a club owner with whom you wish to trade information. Your card contains more information than a badge scan at a vendor booth, so exchange cards with relevant vendors. Bring lots of business cards and return home with very few.

Tip 4: Determine Your Goals for the Trip
A precursor to a successful trip is developing specific goals. Be prepared, or be prepared to muddle your way through a tidal wave of information. This is particularly true of the very large shows. When shopping for new equipment or software, ask very specific questions and take notes if necessary. The trade show floor can contribute to visual and audio overload and makes for a hectic and oftentimes poor learning environment – you will not regret having notes to reference upon your return.

Tip 5: Know Your Budget
Know how much you can spend on capital improvements, routine replacement of equipment and computer software and hardware. Taking advantage of a “show deal” can be a wise and money-saving investment for group exercise-room apparatus and other worn items.

Tip 6: Visit Your Existing Software Vendor
Don’t ignore your software vendor. If you want to see what’s new or have specific questions or concerns, make an appointment with your rep in advance. If possible, meet during off hours-such as the early morning workout sessions-when the show floor is relatively quiet. Or to ensure undivided attention find someplace with the fewest distractions possible-go to an off-site coffee shop with a laptop to review software features and changes.

Tip 7: Prepare for New Software Shopping
If you are shopping for new software, be organized. Have a spreadsheet to track each vendor’s features. Again, appointments work best. Know what you want and what you are willing to compromise on. A good sales rep will ask questions to determine what is important to you. Look for a company whose software includes features to manage not only your members but your employees as well. Free training, tech support and upgrades should be included in their package-their value cannot be overrated. After the sale, you will rely on this support system heavily, especially during the first few months.

Tip 8: Comparison Shop
Upon your return, compare and contrast the companies with your managers. Set up a Web demo to review the software features and benefits. This will serve to further clarify and reaffirm your decision.

Tip 9: Have Fun!
Enjoy this time away from the club. We find that bonding takes place in ways that just do not present themselves in a typical day. Relationships strengthen, knowledge broadens, and you are left with an overall feeling of belonging to an organization so much larger than your club. This is a powerful experience for everyone.

Following these suggestions will not only make for an enjoyable trip, but also ensure you leave the show feeling organized and confident that your team was able to learn the most the trade show had to offer.

Kate Dumas is a Sales Associate with Twin Oaks Software. She can be contacted at 866.278.6750, or by email at kdumas@tosd.com , or visit www.tosd.com .

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